The Late Dr. Vidya Nivas Misra was a renowned multi-disciplinary savant, writing and speaking in many languages, spanning with ease different fields of traditional, folk, ancient and contemporary knowledge. He was born on January 14th, 1926 in Gorakhpur and was famous for his style of essays in the genre known as the lalit nibandh. His creativity continued unabated even while he was Director of K.M. Hindi Institute, Agra (1977-1986), Vice Chancellor of Kashi Vidyapeeth and Sampoornanand Sanskrit Vishva Vidyalaya and Chief Editor of Nava Bharat Times.
He taught Sanskrit and Linguistics at Universities in Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Berkely, and Seattle. Equally facile in Sanskrit and Hindi and its dialects, Dr. Mira wrote with a deep knowledge of the Culture and Customs of India and of the folk wisdom of India. His critical as well as emotionally charged evaluations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were essays in recognition of the true Values of India and its deeply symbolic Mythology.
He has been honored with several awards and distinctions including Padma Bhushan, Padma Shree, Moorti Devi Award of Bharatiya Jnanpith, Shankar Puraskar of K.K. Birla Foundation, Bharat Bharati Samman, Visva Bharati Samman by Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Akademy, Maharashtra Bharati Samman, and the highest honor of the Sahitya Akademi, to name a few.
Dr. Misra has published more than eighty books in the fields of literary criticism, language and linguistics, literary and critical essays and poetry including The Descriptive Technique of Panini (Mouton), Follow the Note of Flute (Sahitya Akademi), Environment and Creativity (Sahitya Akademi), Modern Indian Thought, The Great Indian Mind, etc. He was nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha in 2003.
In spite of this distinguished career he always lived simply and practiced the traditional values he wrote so eloquently about. He made himself available to everybody in need with a generous spirit of help and understanding, and as a Father figure to his students, was often known as Guruji or Babuji.
The Hindu way of life is a 'religion' that emphasizes the Present. It is the marriage of Truth with the perennial laws of Nature'. It is in the very nature of human beings that they cannot but live simultaneously in the Past, the Present and the Future. In other cultures, the idea of dwelling in the past may be associated with a kind of escapism, but in India, associating with or reaffirming the Past means a certain increase in the possibilities of the Present, not a running away from it. Similarly, in certain religions or philosophies of life, an utopian imagination of the Future may inspire the Present, but the Hindu world view does not forget the Present reality in its contemplation of an imaginary vision of future pleasures; in fact, it recognizes the unforeseen future as a product and extension of the Present itself. The Present then, is merely a means of passing on the eternal values of the Past as a handy travel-kit for the Future. However, the Present being the only means of such communication, for the Hindu it is more important than either of the other two.
With this in view, when we consider the achievements of the Hindu Knowledge and scientific systems, the very first notion that attracts our attention is the Weltanschauung of the men of those times, which gives a correct framework or proper perspective to that Knowledge.
There is a very fundamental and original difference in the World-view of the Middle Eastern peoples and the World View of the Hindus. In the first view, there is a basic separation between Nature and its forces and Humankind; hence there is a sense of rivalry between the two. Man thinks of defeating Nature, and therefore, the gods representative of these natural powers, constantly create obstructions in this Victory parade. In absolute contrast to this, the Hindu world-view considers both Humankind and Nature as inseparable-the light of the Sun outside is the same as the light of Intelligence within; the darkness outside is verily the fear within; the upward growth of the grass, the trees and plants, is a corollary of the aspirations within the human heart. Thus there is no confrontation between the gods and men; instead, there is a sense of cooperative affinity".
Man influences the deity and the gods in turn, influence men. The first focus of the Indian knowledge systems is the Vedic yajna, and this institution is a method by which the pairs of gods and men, interior and exterior, manifest and unman fest, and the moving and static beings, are made interdependent and corollary to each other. This is why while western thought puts man at the center, man's undefeatable intelligence at the center, considering the victory of man over Nature as his asset, and the entire universe as his commodity, Hindu thought does not see any center at all. His universe is multi-centered. For Humankind, the Deities are the center, for the Deities, Humankind is the center. Victory over the forces of Nature is not a consideration therein; a coeval beneficence with Nature, and a complete harmony with all Existence is the ultimate goal of Human Life.
The highest achievement for humans is the fulfillment of the indebtedness to all beings, in a pattern where none is either entirely the consumer, nor entirely the object of consumption. Either mankind is the co-consumer, or he is the consumed in trying to maintain the co-consuming role of all others. He is both the consumed (anna) and the consumer of it (anncda).
It is in the light of this worldview that one can then talk about the achievements of Indian thought and knowledge systems, and its eternal values. Speaking about Hindu religion thus means speaking about its intellectual achievements and the primary purpose of its knowledge systems. Knowledge systems of India do not aim to merely define or recognize fundamental things. They aim to recognize all things with a view to classifying the different existential realities and finding an unifying undying principle between them. Any knowledge system that does not include this search is considered incomplete. It is not considered fulfilled, but this does not mean it is of no value or should be ignored.
The sage Varahamihira, in his introductory chapters of the Vrihatsamthita, has paid tribute to the Greek methods of astrology by saying, "...they too, are like sages, because knowledge howsoever it may be, is pure, there is nothing as pure as knowledge." The Hindu world-view merely emphasizes the need to see any kind of incomplete knowledge within its larger framework, it does not wish to denigrate or ignore it.
This is the reason why India has never shied away from borrowing any ideas from outside, be it in the fields of Craft, Arts, Knowledge or Science; but while contributing ideas, She has ensured that the one given to, is not considered in any way a lesser entity; instead, it is an offering, as if given to one greater than oneself. India gave itself to Java, Cambodia, Central Asia, Korea and Japan, but while paying due tribute to the intrinsic identity of these receiving cultures, and by assimilating their identities within oneself by first making their gestures one's very own. It is often said that it is only in the fields of philosophy, fine-arts and literature, that India made any significant contributions, and that the end product is mixed up with religion and philosophy, having a spectre of Sorrow saddled on to it. Wherever Indian Art and literature are not associated with religion, they are not able to express the dignity of man, because then they are mere reflections of a picture of decadent indulgence. Those who say this do not think that religion in our view is considered a very wide term and taken in its broadest aspects. It is neither a belief, nor a definitive set of rules of behavior; it is a natural logical corollary giving meaning to both of these within human Life. Therefore, for a Hindu, Literature, Art and Philosophy cannot be separated from Dharma (loosely translated as Religion) or vice versa. Adharma, is also not an absence or opposition of it, on the contrary it is a stultification or static state of the fluidity of dharma. It is the dynamicity of living religion that permeates all (Hindu) Philosophies, Arts and Literatures. Neither is Indian philosophy fatalistically sad, nor is Indian Literature always oriented to happiness. Indian philosophy talks of the inevitable sadness of life as a preliminary starting point for methods of searching for a more lasting happiness, and Indian Literature does not have a happy ending as a destroyer of this sorrow, but as a destroyer of the destroying quality of sorrow"' within life. The kind of sorrow depicted in Greek tragedies depicts and is based on the helplessness of man against circumstances. The Mahabharata also has an acute sense of tragedy, but it is based on the conflict within the human mind between the lesser and higher obligations (again, also called dharmas).
In Greek tragedies, one sees the dignity of a fall, because the fall occurs due to the inevitable set of circumstances. In Indian poetry, however, the climax is not due to the dignity of the fall, the dignity lies in the disengagement from, and ability to ignore the fall, and even more than that, in the ability of the disenchanted one, to sympathize with others who are victims of sorrow. This is the basic difference between the characters of Oedipus and Yudhisthira. Oedipus is angered against the gods, while Yudhisthira lays his own conditions to the gods in order to accept their offer to enter the Heavens.'
Many western critics consider Sanskrit Poetry as a literature of utterly decadent love-poetry, of a kind of wallowing in sensual pleasures. This is because they do not understand that even sensual pleasures are not demeaning, if they are a part of a greater process', as of a process of selfless concern for the other.
Madhudvirefha kusumaikapatrepapau priyamsvamanuvartamanah
Srngena ca sparsanimilitaksim mrgimakandayata krsnasarah.
The bee drunk the nectar from the flower after offering some to his beloved. The deer scratched the corner of the eye of his female with the mild touch of his antlers, while she sat confidently shutting her eyes, letting him do so. If this naturally giving and trust-generating love-play has been accepted as an embellisher (sahakari) of the emotion of srngara or love, then obviously that love is not merely a gratification of the senses, nor of that of the individual. It is the process of the rejoining of previously separated particles of consciousness, by combining the overflowing exuberance of the total individual consciousness with the total overwhelming exuberance of the Universe.
Sanskrit literature offers a very complete and accurate picture of the broad Hindu viewpoint. The King's court, in Sanskrit Poetry, has indulgent opulence, but it is always as a smaller and lesser entity than the Peace and Faith of the Forest hermitage. The Forest and the elemental and wild nature of the forest have always lent such a perspective to Indian Poetry that love-play and its descriptions within it have become sublime.
The second major impact of the Hindu way is apparent in Indian Art. Those who see only ornamentation or the repetition of the same motif, or unrealistic representation in Indian art do not see the reason behind it. The purpose of moving away from the realistic representation of things is to reveal them as being of value only in as much of they are seen and howsoever they may be seen by the viewer. It is of permanent value only in the way the Seer is reflected in the object Seen, since that alone is its Intrinsic Reality.
In both Poetry and Art, the repetition of motifs, the repetition of poetic imagery-compounds, of accepted adjectives, of seasonal cycles, are not intended for irritation or boredom of the reader or viewer. On the contrary, it is intended to consistently remind of the unity and the basic constancy of the relevant emotion in the case, reflected in these various posturings, so that the apparent separateness of partially revealed existences may not obfuscate the vision of their essential unity.
The search for newness in the Indian Art-view lies not in individual originality, it lies in the originality of the individual-interpretation. Innumerable plays have been written about the personae of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and innumerable artworks produced with themes related to them, but though the same characters appear, they are presented in an innovative manner. They are presented for different purposes by their being consistently and repeatedly available as such. That is why Rama and Ravana or Krsna and Kamsa do not change in character, they are represented as they were envisaged in Valmiki or Vyasa, but their being renewed as such continues. As realized beings or historical persons their role is very minimal, and the Indian literary or Artistic view uses their historical role very minimally. It neither negates that, nor offers in turn any a-historical or utopian role. It merely creates a timeless possibility of an effortlessly transcendental role that remains neutral towards both these types of fragmented views.''
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