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Sanskrit and Vedas – What the learning means?

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by PRAKASH KATOCH

Two news items linked to Sanskrit appeared in the media recently. First, a committee on revival of Sanskrit set up by Government of India made wide-ranging recommendations but made it clear that Sanskrit need not be made compulsory in schools, and that under the three language formula, schools and examination boards should ensure that Sanskrit is taught and available to those who are interested.

The committee has also said that if Sanskrit is to become popular, textbooks of all subjects should be available in Sanskrit.

The second news item is about an Indian American couple (Anupama and Guru Ramakrishnan) who have donated $3.5 million to Chicago University for the revival of Sanskrit language, adding to the immense contribution by Indian Diaspora towards reviving and retaining our culture.

The Ramakrishnans’ gift is part of The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, which will raise $4.5 billion and engage 125,000 alumni by 2019. To date, the campaign has raised $2.82 billion and engaged more than 59,000 alumni. Interestingly, last year in India Maryam, a Muslim girl won the contest of Bhagwat Gita, holy book for Hinduism followers. Maryam’s parents supported her idea of participating in the contest. She defeated all the contestants to win the contest.

According to American political scientist Joseph Nye, “The soft power of a country rests primarily on three resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority).”

In ancient times many civilization were formed that were confined to small regions but world’s first culture came up in India (Yajurveda 7/14: Sa Pratham Sansktiti Vishwara) which focused on inculcating human values in mankind and spread to vast areas of the globe; present day West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia.

Focus of Indian culture inculcating human values in mankind has been widely acknowledged abroad. British Historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) had stated, “It is already becoming clear that a chapter which has a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in history the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way.”

Two issues are noteworthy in Toynbee’s statement; first, the world has become much more dangerous than when he spoke, and second, when he said “the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way”, he meant the human values and all inclusive nature of Indians.

The world acknowledges what India gave to them in terms of culture, civilization, Buddhism and Jainism, education, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, science, astronomy, medicine, surgery, rocketry, navigation, etc.

India gave the world Zero without which no worthwhile scientific discovery would have been possible, as acknowledged by Albert Einstein. Using an astronomical model developed by Brahmagupta in the 7th century, Bhaskaracharya accurately defined many astronomical quantities, including the length of the sidereal year, the time that is required for the Earth to orbit the Sun as 365.258756484, hundreds of years before astronomer smart.

It is also intriguing how accurate and meaningful our ancient scriptures are though not interpreted accurately or realized by any presently. The Hanuman Chalisa reads, “Yug sahastra yojan per Bhanu, Leelyo taahi madhur phal janu.” One Yug denotes 12000 years, one Sahastra denotes 1000 and one Yojan denotes 8 miles, which brings the total distance to 96000000 miles (12000 x 1000 x 8 miles) or 1536000000 kms to Sun, which NASA confirms is the exact distance between Earth and Sun.

Sanskrit is acknowledged as the mother of most languages in the world including European languages. NASA acknowledges it is the best language for computer programming.

In India, Sanskrit is mostly used as hymns and chants by Hindus and Buddhists as ceremonial language and for rituals. CBSE, ICSE and some state education boards provide Sanskrit as second or third language in schools for classes 5 to 8. There are a number of Gurukuls also teaching Sanskrit.

Many would be unaware that Moin-ul-Islam madrassa, located on outskirts of Agra, teaches Sanskrit and Arabic to girls and boys of both Hindu and Muslim communities. Spoken Sanskrit has been revived in some villages and traditional institutions as well. Compare this to the proliferation of Chinese language in India.

In 2012, China offered to train 300 Indian teachers in Mandarin Chinese covering all expenses in China for six months and under an MoU signed with CBSE for more than 100 CBSE schools to introduce Chinese language. In April 2012, CBSE made Chinese a foreign language subject for middle school students in 500 schools, with plans to promote study of Chinese in 11,500 middle schools. China’s Confucius Institute has been introduced by Vellore Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu and JNU, Delhi too has been designated to host Confucius Institute online.

The hesitation within India to learn Sanskrit is generally because of the patent question what is the use of learning it? Such question ignores to examine why educational institutions in countries like Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, USA and Russian Federation are teaching Sanskrit.

Interestingly an International Conference on “Sanskrit and Indological Studies in India, Russia and Neighbouring Countries: Past, Present and Future” held in Moscow last November saw 24 scholars from India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Belarus presenting papers. St James Schools in England teach Sanskrit because: being the root of European languages its study illuminates their grammar and etymology; its philosophical concepts provide a wealth of human thought; regarded classical language par excellence and considered positive while assessing university admissions.

St James School, London, has Sanskrit compulsory second language subject for its junior division because it helps students grasp math, science and other languages better. Warwick Jessup, head of Sanskrit department, says “This is the most perfect and logical language in the world, the only one that is not named after the people who speak it. Indeed the word ‘Sanskrit’ itself means perfected language.”

Paul Moss, Headmaster of the school, says: “The Devnagri script and spoken Sanskrit are two of the best ways for a child to overcome stiffness of fingers and the tongue. Today’s European languages do not use many parts of the tongue and mouth while speaking or many finger movements while writing, whereas Sanskrit helps immensely to develop cerebral dexterity through its phonetics.”

Students of St James chanted Vedic hymns in presence of Queen Elizabeth at the Buckingham Palace in 2010 to celebrate beginning of the Commonwealth Games. Significantly, the Gayatri Mantra was proved to be the most powerful hymn in the world through laboratory tests by American scientist Howard Steingeril; the Mantra produced 110,000 sound waves per second. Gayatri Mantra is known to be capable of developing specific spiritual potentialities.

The most significant reason to learn Sanskrit is to be able to draw upon the great knowledge lying hidden in our Vedas. The bane of India always has been lack of political consensus, which is exploited to the hilt by political parties for political gains despite adverse impact to national interests.

Therefore, an impression has been created that Sanskrit and Vedas are strictly synonymous to Hindu religion, which is not the case. Even the great teachings of Bhagwad Gita because of the time of Mahabharata are alluded mistakenly to Hinduism, but are applicable across the board to all religions and communities.

American Thinker Thoreau clarified, “In the great teachings of Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and is the road for attainment of the Great Knowledge.” The misperception in India that Vedas are part of Hindu Religion needs to be corrected, even as foreigners acknowledge that Hinduism is a way of life.

German Indologist Max Muller who translated Vedas into English and who was recruited by the British to educate officers of the newly formed Indian Civil Service post the 1857 mutiny said, “If I am asked which nation had been advanced in the modern world in respect of education and culture then I would say it was India.”

At a time when our abundant youth power must join in the development of India, especially with inimical and divisive forces hell bent to lead them astray, we need to make a conscious effort to draw upon our rich heritage and culture through learning Sanskrit and Vedas – it is time to pull the wool out of our eyes.

Prakash Katoch is a third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He has published over 530 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. The article was first published at Hillpost.in

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Asia Cup : India Emerge Champions for third time, Beat Malaysia in Asia Cup Hockey Championship

India emerged victorious for the third time

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(representational Image) India vs Malaysia Hockey Match wikimedia

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India overcame Malaysia 2-1 in the final on Sunday to win the Asia Cup hockey championship for the third time.

Ramandeep Singh (3rd minute) and Lalit Upadhyay (29th) scored for India. Shahril Saabah (50th minute) scored the reducer for Malaysia. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here

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Hinduism. Pixabay

Oct 06, 2017: Have you ever wondered what being a Hindu means? Or who is actually fit to be called a Hindu? Over centuries, Hindus and Indians alike have asked this question to themselves or their elders at least once in their lifetime.

In the 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal” the court identified seven defining characteristics of Hinduism but people are still confused to what exactly defines being a Hindu in the 21st century. It’s staggering how uninformed individuals can be about their own religion; according to a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya there are various common notions we carry about who a Hindu is:

  • Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu
  • If your parents are Hindu, you’re are also inevitably a Hindu
  • If you believe in reincarnation, you’re a Hindu
  • If you follow any religion practiced in India, you’re a Hindu
  • And lastly, if you are born in a certain caste, you’re a Hindu

After answering these statements some fail to remove their doubts on who a Hindu is. The question arises when someone is unsure on how to portray themselves in the society, many people follow a set of notions which might/might not be the essence of Hinduism and upon asked why they perform a particular ritual they are clueless. The problem is that the teachings are passed on for generations and the source has been long forgotten, for the source is exactly where the answer lies.

Religion corresponds to scriptural texts

The world is home to many religions and each religion has its own uniqueness portrayed out of the scriptures and teachings which are universally accepted. So to simplify the dilemma one can say that determining whether someone belongs to a particular religion is directly related to whether he/she follows the religious scriptures of the particular religion, and also whether they abide to live by the authority of the scriptural texts.

Christianity emerges from the guidance of the Gospels and Islam from the Quran where Christians believe Jesus died for their sins and Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Similarly, Hinduism emerges from a set of scriptures known as the Vedas and a Hindu is one who lives according to Dharma which is implicated in the divine laws in the Vedic scriptures.By default, the person who follows these set of religious texts is a Hindu.

Also Read: Christianity and Islam don’t have room for a discourse. Hindus must Stop Pleasing their former Christian or Muslim masters, says Maria Wirth 

Vedas distinguishes Hindu from a Non-Hindu

Keeping this definition in mind, all the Hindu thinkers of the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy accept and also insist on accepting the Vedas as a scriptural authority for distinguishing Hindus from Non-Hindus. Further implying the acceptance of the following of Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Puranas etc as a determining factor by extension principle as well.

Bottom Line

So, concluding the debate on who is a Hindu we can say that a person who believes in the authority of the Vedas and lives by the Dharmic principles of the Vedas is a Hindu. Also implying that anyone regardless of their nationality i.e. American, French or even Indian can be called a Hindu if they accept the Vedas.

– Prepared by Tanya Kathuria of Newsgram                                                                

(the article was originally written by Shubhamoy Das and published by thoughtco)

One response to “Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here”

  1. Hindu is a historical name for people living “behind the river Indus”. So, everyone living in India is a Hindu, eventhough he might have a different faith.

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