Author:Hari Ravikumar

Do you love your spouse? Do you love your child? Do you love your parents? Do you love your wealth? Do you love wisdom? Do you love power? Do you love god? Most of us would answer with a yes to at least a few of these questions, but according to a famous story in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.1-5) the answer is no.

A freewheeling chat with modern-day polymath and Sanskrit scholar, Shataavadhaani Dr. R. Ganesh about sanatana dharma, religion and modernity, text and spirit, community, and how to approach the study of Indian philosophy (darshana) in general. Enlightening, humourous, and charming by turns, this is a must watch!

Of late in classical dance performances, the proportion of nrutta, which lacks creative interpretation and expression, is on the rise. At the same time, rasabhinaya, i.e., aesthetic communication with creative interpretation of the lyrics and the music is decreasing.

While Krishna praises the trait of detachment and contentment, he emphasizes the need for hard work. At the risk of sounding paradoxical, he says in the Gita – I’ve achieved everything, yet I continue to work (BG 3.22); If I fail to work tirelessly, humans will blindly follow my example and sit idle (BG 3.23); If I didn’t work, the worlds would perish and I would become the cause of chaos (BG 3.24).

गोविन्द-नन्दनतया च वपुःश्रिया च
मास्मिन्नृपे कुरुत कामधियं तरुण्यः ।
अस्त्री-करोति जगतां विषये स्मर स्त्रीः
अस्त्रीजनः पुनरनेन विधीयते स्त्रीः ॥

Sriharsha, the great exponent of Sanskrit poetry in 12th century C.E., was erudition and creativity personified. Srihira and Mamalladevi were his parents. His Naishadhiya-charitam is one among the pancha maha-kavyas (five epic-poems).

The Mahabharata was also known as Jaya (victory). By using the word ‘जय,’ Vedavyasa speaks of kshaatra and valor. There, both dharma and adharma are permanent, pre-eminent. When Vyasa calls Duryodhana as “दुर्योधनो मन्युमयो महाद्रुमः” and Yudhishthira as “युधिष्ठिरो धर्ममयो महाद्रुमः” (MB 1.1.65-66), the implied meaning is ‘a kshatriya should be established in dharma and should gently nurture the world like a great tree.’

In the tenth episode (The Edge of Forever) of the TV series Cosmos, speaking about Hinduism, Carl Sagan says, “Here, there is a tradition of skeptical questioning and unselfconscious humility before the great cosmic mysteries.” He was most intrigued by the famous creation poem in the Rigveda Samhita known popularly as the ‘Nasadiya Sukta.’ A short poem of only seven verses, it discusses the great mystery of creation.

Bahinabai, the renowned folk poetess, lived in a small village in Maharashtra. She was illiterate and unschooled but was a prolific composer of poetry (mostly set to the folk poetic meter called ovi). While she composed all these poems orally, her son Sopandev wrote them down and got them published with the help of the Marathi polymath P. K. Atre.

ऐश्वर्य-मद-मत्तोऽसि मामवज्ञाय वेत्स्यसे ।
उपस्थितेषु बौद्धेषु मदधीना तव स्थितिः ॥

The uniqueness of sanatana dharma is its universality. Three cardinal features confer upon it its universal character. These three are however not mutually exclusive; they, in fact, nourish one another.