Chandra Vikash / 20 yrs ago
Unlocking India’s potential by rediscovering ancient insights
The current spate of events of terrorism and the attempt to throttle it, lead us to a challenging juncture in human history. We in a linear extrapolation of our popular behavior cannot accept that we have reached a blind alley in our quest to discover the ultimate reality of our existence. That the response to terrorism, for instance, has to be to dissolve its basis and not its overt manifestations. Technology and the market alone have no answers, this is a reality; deeper inroads into the human consciousness and the laws of nature hold the key to solving many of our problems.
In the words of Sri Rishi Kumar Mishra whose work on scientific interpretation of Vedas inspires this article: “A creative response to (such) challenges could open up an entirely new era, in which the search for knowledge and the pursuit of peace, harmony and happiness could be closely intertwined. A breakthrough would enable mankind to disentangle itself from the frustrating situation in which the more solutions are found to problems, the more it is confronted by new ones. We have reached this stalemate because the vast potential for discerning profound truths hidden in the forgotten labyrinth of history has remained untapped.”
Overawed by the intoxicating advances of modern science and spellbound by the efficiency spewing mechanism of the market, we have missed out on the exhilarating results of the incisive enquiries made earlier in our history and their practical applications. The efficiency brought by the market at present is confined to the industrial system and does not account for costs incurred in the overall natural system. Inquiries into the complex workings of nature and its cyclicality hold insights for better-informed business decisions and consumer choices leading to overall efficiency, much to the customer’s delight.
Revisiting a golden era
To place and time the events in our context, these secrets — which include enquiries into the mysteries of nature and the processes and forces that create, sustain and ultimately subsume us — were unraveled and some of the eternal laws of nature discovered several thousand years ago by the great scientists of the Saraswati civilization. This civilization flourished in the catchment area of the gigantic river Saraswati, which dried up and disappeared underground following a prolonged spell of drought and natural calamities.
This society in the Saraswati basin enjoyed a rich culture. Great minds devoted themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. These seer-scientists — rishis — so called because they could see the reality of the workings of the cosmos, bequeathed to posterity an invaluable heritage of knowledge and insights, blending theory with carefully devised practices.” (Mishra, 2000)
Different from popular perception, the Vedas — the body of this knowledge — are no mere exertions in metaphysics, philosophy or spirituality that did not find place in the conventional scheme of commercial and consumer interests. Ironically, it has been even shunned, as a distraction to the ‘worldly pursuit’ of higher profit and personal income and in meeting our consumption needs.
In reality, this “corpus of knowledge include subjects like anatomy and medicine, architecture and town planning, meteorology and astronomy, language and linguistics, music and dance, statecraft and economy, social engineering and jurisprudence, psychology and physiology.”
Unlocking India’s potential: A beginning
Furthering and widening these lines of thought and practice, blending them with our current preferences and choices; processed and managed by our software and knowledge management skills, should be the focus of our attention at a national level. This holds the key to unlocking India’s potential to not only bail out of its current financial, social and political crisis but to drive genuine progress as a role model for modern civilization.
Interestingly, this creates a convergence with a parallel quest for a ‘new’ story that leading management thinkers in the west such as Peter Senge and a host of cognitive scientists and cultural historians are groping for as well, deemed as the sustainability story, that can be positively described as the story for genuine progress.
Work on innovation and change in organizations reveal how stories become a carrier of culture. In empirical studies a common approach has been to identify artifacts of a culture, such as the unique symbols, heroes, rites and rituals, myths and ceremonies, that are embedded in the stories that the organizations tell themselves, and then to explore, to a greater or a lesser extent, the deeper meanings of these artifacts (Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Trice & Beyer, 1984; Wuthnow & Witten, 1988, Hofstede, 1991; Martin, 1992).
According to cultural historian Thomas Berry, “We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it…sustained us for a long period of time. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with life purposes and energized our actions. It consecrated our suffering and integrated our knowledge. We woke up in the morning and knew where we were. We could answer the questions of our children.”
“…sustainability (genuine progress) requires letting go of the story of the supremacy of humans in nature, the story that the natural world exists as mere ‘resources’ to serve human ‘progress’. But most of us grew up with this story, and it is still shared by the vast majority of the modern society. It is not easy to let it go, especially when we are uncertain about what the new story will be.”
Elements of the new story are emerging: We are just beginning to explore (from a western viewpoint) what it means to be part of a universe that is alive… not just cosmos but cosmogenesis… Moreover, the new universe story “carries with it a psychic-spiritual dimension as well as a physical-materialistic dimension. Otherwise, human consciousness emerges out of nowhere… an addendum [with] no real place in the story of the universe.”
Such a story is essential if we are to make real changes in our practices — in our production decisions and in consumption choices and their overall experience. Stories are a set of deep beliefs and assumptions that develop over time by our repeatedly telling them. New stories emerge as we gradually see and experience the world anew. As author Daniel Quinn says, these stories become the carriers of culture.
Our cultural roots in the Vedic stories — suffused with such artifacts — embedded in our way of living hold further promise for our genuine progress. It demands that we dig deeper in the goldmine of our practices and the rituals to comprehend the deeper beliefs, motivations and assumptions that underline these stories in our present context.
These beliefs need to be reinforced by their wider acceptance and pronouncements at the highest levels of leadership, intelligentsia and celebrities. Media coverage in print and in television with its wide reach, carrying endorsements and the practical significance of these stories can seed the stories in our imagination. Storyboards — cinema, soaps and theater — can take it further to wider sections of the masses with a telling effect.
Simultaneously, the new stories have to find prominent place in well-researched curriculums right at school. Research in management, social sciences and engineering on how these stories can impact consumption choices and patterns, and waste reduction with positive impact on corporate bottomlines, need firm government support before they are lapped up by corporates, who are at present smarting from the adverse impact of the earlier take-make-waste stories. The downward spiraling effect on their bottomline and in their market prices reflect the unsustainability of the earlier stories and the pressing need to develop a new one.
We are sitting on a goldmine of our cultural heritage. During this financial and economic crisis that is likely to percolate deeper into the socio-political arena without an end in sight, we should not make the mistakes that cave dwellers made as they froze to death on beds of coal. Coal was right under them, but they couldn’t see it, mine it, or use it.
Mona Vijaykar / / 11 yrs ago
Ohmygod!! Vikash namaste! Where have you guys been? THIS is ABSOLUTELY what I have envisioned….cannot wait to brainstorm with you….with my limited knowledge, however.
Thank you for bringing me into the loop! Comment
Chandra Vikash / / 11 yrs ago
As a friend just pointed out to me, the second part of Prakash’s comments refer to “noscreenname” and not to the author. Readers may like to read it accordingly. 🙂
P Dp / / 19 yrs ago
i think your article illustrates an important point. living in the west tends to stifle one’s ability to investigate history that is accurate. westerners are so far behind, they think they are ahead! as for our friend chandra vikash; before criticizing others, perhaps you should learn to spell correctly. there is nothing more comical then to have a smart *ss trying to flex his pathetic muscles! please do indulge us if you have any relevant criticizm; ie. some that actually relates to the subject of the article.