From the Jacket
This presentation of Vedic and Upanisadic ideas of understanding and ahimsa addresses some of the most urgent global problems in today’s world. the scholarly articles elaborate on principles of ahimsa as practised by the Buddhist and Jain traditions and by Mahatma Gandhi. Here scholars from India and other parts of Asian as well as the West explore the scientific and systematic nature of life of the Vedic people. They examine aspects relating to linguistics, the Indian epic literature, and advaita, and study many individual topics like states of consciousness in Indian philosophy and concept of time in Indian heritage. They delve into the meaning and message of the Upanisads as extremely relevant to us in the present century. A study examines festivals to determine the correlation between annual festivals and natural factors and conducts a scientific analysis that establishes a relation between lunar phases and human physiology, and more generally the relation between calendar and culture.
The thought-provoking articles present insights into the vision of Dharmic traditions for nourishing mutual appreciation and respect among religious traditions. They also reveal the abuses and distortions that the tradition has suffered from within over the ages, and call for a scientific analysis of human traditions so that their time-tested values can prove relevant to the present day.
About the Author
Bal Ram Singh: is the Director of Center for Indic Studies at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. As a Professor of Biophysical Chemistry and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and the Director of Botulinum Research Center, he has been conducting research since 1990 on botulinum and tetanus neurotoxins, and lately also on yoga, mind, and consciousness.
Surendra N. Dwivedi: is the Board of Regents’ eminent Scholar, professor and director of Virtual Reality Research Center at University of Louisiana Lafayette, has published over 200 papers, founder and chief editor of three technical journals, founder president of two professional societies, and is the recipient of 41 awards.
Satish C. Misra: an Expert Mathematical Statistician at the US Food and Drug Administration since 1989, is an Adjunct Professor at the American University, Washington DC, with over 40 publications. He is Secretary of International Hindi Association, and President of Federation of Indian Associations - National Capital Region.
Bhu Dev Sharma: Founder President of WAVES, former President of Hindu University of America, Mathematics Professor in USA, West Indies, and India. Edited three volumes on Indian Studies, published over hundred articles on mathematics and statistics, guided 23 PhD students, and is Editor of several journals.
Dhirendra Shah: Graduate of London School of Economics and Harvard Business School, president of Suruj International Inc., USA, President of India Awareness Foundation, USA, and former Director and Treasurer of WAVES. He has written several articles for magazines and newspapers in India and USA.
This is a compilation of papers selected from the presentations made at the Fourth International Conference on “India’s Contributions and Influences to Solve the World’s Current Problems,” 12-14 July 2002 at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and at the Fifth International Conference on “India’s Intellectual Traditions in Contemporary Global Context,” 9-11 July 2004 at the University of Maryland, Shady Grove Campus.
The World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) is a multi-disciplinary academic society. WAVES is not confined to study related to Vedas alone or to India alone. WAVES explores worldwide traditions commonly called Vedic-past, present and future. It brings together academics from universities and institutions of higher learning and other knowledgeable persons on its platform to share their views and researches. It is a forum for all scholarly activities and views on any area of “Vedic open for membership and for participation to all persons irrespective of their colour, creed, ethnicity or country of origin, or any other kind of persuasion.
“India’s Contributions and Influences to Solve the World’s Current Problems,” 12-14 July 2002
The Center for Indic Studies (CIS) of UMass Dartmouth hosted the 2002 conference. WAVES Inc. co-ordinated the conference, along with other such biennial conferences since 1996. Academic scholars and non-academic practitioners alike presented Vedic and Upanisadic ideas of understanding and ahimsa to address some of the most pressing global problems in today’s world. Dr. Francis Clooney of Boston College at that time (now at Harvard Divinity School) presented ideas on how today’s global audience, given its diverse religious, philosophical, and cultural interests, still can learn from the language, methods, and conclusions of the Upanisads.
Prof. Hope Fitz of Eastern Connecticut University stated that “never has there been a time when ahimsa (basically non-harm and compassion) was needed more than it is today.” She elaborated principles of ahimsa, as practiced by Gandhi, as well as in the Jain and Buddhist traditions.
The inaugural address presented by Dr. Kalyanraman highlighted the incrementally acceptable theory on, and existence of, Sarasvati Civilization. Dr. Frawley followed up on this in his lecture on the Rgveda and the Ocean, referring to the significance of the discovery of the course of River Sarasvati over 1,600 km. from Manasarovar to Gujarat (with an average width of a staggering 6 to 8 km of palaeo-channels of the river, as seen from the satellite images) and the discovery of over 2,000 archaeological sites of the civilization (i.e. 80 per cent of the so-called sites of Harappan culture). The Rgveda was composed on the banks of the River Sarasvati, the same river along the banks of which Balarama (elder brother of Krsna) goes on a pilgrimage for 40-plus days, visiting the ancient pilgrimage sites, and offers homage to Krsna’s and his pitrs (as described in the Salya Parva of the Mahabharata in 200 slokas). The continuity of this Sarasvati culture in Bharata was elaborated by presenting emphatic cultural markers, for example, by the wearing of the sinddura by married women.
More than one hundred and fifty presentations, ranging from spiritual Vedic literature to tradition to science, took place over the course of 30 parallel sessions, in addition to inaugural addresses, keynote speeches, plenary and public lectures, and a panel discussion.
Many prominent Indologists were in attendance, such as author Dr. David Frawley, who spoke on the Rgveda; Prof. Hope K. Fitz, who spoke on ahimsa in Yoga-Stras; and Dr. S. Kelyanraman, member of the Akhila Bharateeya Itihaasa Sankalana Yojana, who presented an in-depth and scholarly lecture on Sarasvati Civilization.
“What I would like to do is bring India to the West,” said French journalist and author Francois Gautier, “I believe India is going to be the spiritual leader of the world. That is why I fight for India.”
Other scholars from China, India, Nepal, the Caribbean, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Canada, and the US, as well as artists of all kinds, also were in attendance.
A general theme running throughout the conference reflected on the deep scientific and systematic nature of life of Vedic tradition people, and the culture of celebrated diversity commonly visible even in today’s India.
Dr. B.K. Modi, President of the Indian Council of Religious Leaders, presented a general overview of India and Hinduism as an epitomy of Arts and Sciences of Human Welfare. Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, President of the Infinity Foundation, presented ideas for repositioning Hinduism in the American education system. He was particularly critical of Western academicians who, after learning many ideas from the Indic traditions, end up trashing the source of their information.
On Sunday, 14 July in the plenary session, Dr. Vasant Lad of the Ayurvedic Institute, NM, gave a scholarly overview of Ayurveda in daily life, followed by a two-hour special workshop for interested participants on the basic principles of Ayurveda.
Sessions on “Ayurveda and Health”, and on “Consciousness”, attracted and most delegates. Several presentations emphasized Ayurveda’s scientific nature and the opportunity for an enormous market for Ayurvedic medicine in the West. Consciousness studies are becoming popular in Psychology departments of most U.S. universities. Don Salmon of Salem, S.C., said that “when compared to Indian Philosophy/Psychology, Western psychology, neuroscience, and consciouness studies combined do not correspond to even a significant fraction.”
Dr. Koenraad Elst of Belgium presented a lecture entitled “Hindu Influence on Christianity,” outlining some of the philosophical elements of Christianity, including the doctrine of incarnation which has its roots in Vedic/Buddhist traditions.
The last part of the programme, which followed a lunch break, was a lively panel discussion on “Current Global Influences of Vedic Thoughts and Hindu Practices.” Panelists consisted of Dr. Deen B. Chandora, Dr. Koenrad Elst, Mr. Francois Gautier, Mr. Rajeev Malhotra, and Dr. Bal Ram Singh, with very heavy participation from the audience. Issues related to Hindu vs. India, ways to include other groups who follow Indic tradition of dharma and to accept diversity of cultures and religions, as well as the less than adequate representation of practicing Indians involved in academic Indic scholarship, and the need for an assertive India/Hindu point of view.
The CIS at UMass Dartmouth hosted the conference whose mission is to “highlight India’s time-tested eternal values for world’s progress, peace and harmony” and to “cultivate relevance of ancient Indic human values through scholarly understanding and promotion.” Some of its goals are to “promote awareness among Americans of contemporary India and its demographic diversity in the twenty-first century” and to “disseminate understanding of issues relating to the arts, philosophy, culture, societal values, and customs of India for the benefit of the world as a family.”
Professor Bhu Dev Sharma, President of WAVES, was overall coordinator of the 2002 Conference and organized its academic programme as well. The programme concluded on 14 July with remarks from Prof. Bhu Dev Sharma and Mr. Dhirendra Shah of WAVES. Dr. Bal Ram Singh, Director of CIS, expressed thanks to all of the participants, the various organizations, and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the conference a success.
“India’s Intellectual Traditions in Contemporary Global Context” 9-11 July 2004
More than 200 papers were accepted for presentation and their abstracts, printed in the Conference Souvenir, were circulated to the participants. Persons from several countries, including those from Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nepal, and the USA, participated in this successful conference.
Many experts and scholars, including university academics, authors, researchers, journalists, intellectuals and practitioners, were among those who presented papers and participated in the deliberations. In all, 47 sessions and 152 presentations took place with a good mix of persons of Indian and non-Indian scholars.
Amongst the highlights were the symposia on “Vedas and Consciousness,” “Philosophy,” Academic Study of Indian Religion in the U.S.,” “Indian Diaspora Experience,” “Gita in 21st Century,” “Hinduism and Clash of Civilizations,” “Ayurveda in Public Health Care Systems in Western Countries,” “Ayu8rveda: The Art & Science of Healthy Living,” “Yoga and Meditation,” “Youth & Dharma,” and “On Some Western Writers on India.”
There also were sessions on “Ramyana,” “Mahabharata,” “Peace and Universal Vedic Messages,” “Vedic Mathematics & Sciences,” “Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants,” and so on.
Also drawing notable attention were sessions on “Hinduism & Clash of Cultures,” which brought a good discussion on the current state of terrorism and its effects; “On Some Western Writers on India,” whose writings provoked allegations of distortions and misrepresentations of Hindu gods and heroes from many scholars worldwide; “Consciousness”; and a discussion of “Indians & the Influence of India in the World.” An important feature this year was the participation of an India Diaspora group and a youth group.
Another conference highlight was a plenary panel discussion on “Directions for Healthy Academic Study of Vedic Traditions,” with six panelists representing academics, journalists, educationists and public leaders.
A general theme running throughout the conference reflected on the deep intellectual traditions in the life of Vedic people, and the culture of celebrated diversity commonly visible inn today’s India.
Prof. Bhu Dev Sharma, President of WAVES, was the overall co-ordinator of the conference, and he organized the academic programme, helped by organizers of various symposia such as Prof. Hope Fitz, Prof. June McDaniel, Prof. Jagdish Srivastava, Prof. T.R.N. Rao, Prof. Madan Goel, Prof. Rahul Peter Das, Prof. Shri Mishra, Dr. Vishnu Purohit and Dr. Kaushik Shastri, Dr. K. Sadananda and Satya P. Agarwal, and Sanjay Garg. Local Organizer Dr. Satish C. Misra, did a magnificent job with help from Dr. Ghanshyam Gupta, Dr. Hari Har Singh, Dr. Parthasarthy Pillai, Dr. Prasad Reddy, Dr. S. Mishra, Dr. Kaushik Shastri, Dr. Yogendra Gupta, Dr. Bishnu Poudel, Dr. Jagdish Sharma, and Dr. Anita Dubey.
FREQUENTLY, when we think of WAVES, we consider only the superficial reference to the group so named in the acronym: The World Association for Vedic Studies. We think of group members, group activities, and group accomplishments, such as the proceedings offered her. But WAVES is such a unique organization that it is important to pause, on a regular basis, to remember the very seeds of our Vedic studies, and to grant them the reverence they so richly deserve. Such honour, after all, has been deemed worthy by civilizations around the world. As American historian Will Durant (1885-1981) said:
India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages. India was the mother of our philosophy, of much of our mathematics…of self-government and democracy. In many ways, Mother India is the mother of us all.
India’s contributions go all the way back to the sacred Indian texts of the Vedas, discovered more than 6,000 years ago. From there, Indian influence has extended through time to include contributions in areas as diverse as science, mathematics, architecture, health, culture and the unique spirituality inherent to all Indian activity. It all began in the Indus-Sarasvati Valley, the birthplace of the Vedas, wherein more than 2,500 archaeological sites have been discovered in an area more than double the size of ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia.
India’s architecture, at its finest, is a practical illustration of the fundamental balance that goes back to the roots of Indian culture. That balance rests upon five elements of the natural world: earth (prthivi), water (jala), fire (agni), air (vayu), and space (akasa). And it is evident in the Vaisnava Temple at Khajuraho and many other historical structures, as well as in the ancient concepts of town planning. Just as important, however, is that such building and planning expressed, rather than harnessed, Indian principles. As Greek thinker and traveler Apollonius Tyanaeus said in the first century CE:
Indians find there balance in the essence of their spirituality which illustrates their respect for the blending of right body/right mind, another fundamental harmony of nature or dharma, the eternal way of life. This pure concept of health is practised through the concept of Ayurveda, the world’s oldest, continually practised holistic health care system. It focuses study, not on mere symptoms, but on the root cause and treatment that is mindful of the overall connections among mind, body and spirit. Yoga, meanwhile, is a physical exercise in which the practitioner unifies with his or her Supreme Being.
It is not surprising that the Indian love of balance found expression in the history of mathematics. As Einstein said:
India has made stunning contributions to this field, largely through famous mathematicians such as Aryabhatta (born CE 476), a master astronomer and mathematician who offered the concept of zero and who first discovered that the world was round, and Bhaskaracarya II (born CE 1114), a master of algebra who was the first to discover gravity. Indians, accordingly, have found voice in many related arenas, such as geometry, trigonometry, calculus, physics, and chemistry, it has been said, in fact, that Arabs used so much of India’s mathematical discoveries that their study of mathematics became known as Hindsa, which means “from India.”
In turn, mathematical discoveries such as the concept of zero complement the Indian notion of merging into a void of eternity or nirvana. Indian spirituality, philosophy, and science, in turn, find further expression in the world in fine art. Chemistry begets paints and perfumes, and artistry begets object d’art and theatre. The mandala, as such, is yet another expression of universal balance.
All such expressions have found their way through the centuries and throughout the world, so that their influence is felt and appreciated on a global basis. One out of six persons now is a Hindu, and yet the expansion of Indian culture has been a peaceful movement. As Hu Shih, the former Chinese ambassador to the USA, said:
Perhaps this peace is based on the notion that Indians believe in the divinity of all persons. They love the essential nature of the planet, as well as the nature of all men and women, and they believe that service to others, by reducing the suffering of others, will increase the happiness and enlightenment of all. This is a legacy of which we truly can be proud.
And yet, many current views of Indian culture, both in academia and in mainstream culture, are strangely negative. This is unfortunate, not only because such views are not genuine, but also because they disable our youth from carrying on the traditions with pride and, worst of all, they lend yet more confusion to an already confused world. Surely each of you will agree that we must strive to share the truth and beauty of what it really means to be an Indian in today’s world. Please step forward and find a way to share your own views on this important matter. Do it for your children and for each generation still to come.
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