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The Wishing Tree (The Presence and Promise of India)
The Wishing Tree (The Presence and Promise of India)
Description
Preface

The past two decades have brought revolutionary changes in our understanding of the Indian civilization. The chronology of the pre-historic period has been pushed back. Archaeologists tell us that the Indic civilization can be traced back in an unbroken sequence to at least 8000 BC. There is an even older rock art tradition that have been found all over India. Our understanding of the literature has also improved. Figures from the Vedas and the Puranas have started emerging into the historical narrative.

Although these findings are important in the self-definition of the Indian, they are being debated primarily in the pages of academic journals and at scholarly symposia. Most school text-books and other popular books still repeat old, incorrect notions.

This essay, as an overview of this new understanding, is for the general readers. It is based on three invited lectures gives at Stanford University and the Berkeley, and Irvine campuses of the University of California on 14 and 15 April 2000.

Introduction

What are the contributions of India to the world civilization? What does the latest research say about the antiquity of the Indian tradition? What relevance, if any, does India hold for the future? Can mainstream science benefit from Indic ideas? These are some of the questions I address in the is little book.

In the imagination of the West, India is the land of magic and mystery, wisdom and religiosity, tradition and ritual. India is exotic; its arts, literature, music, cuisine appear different. But, at the same time, there are aspects to India that speak straight to the heart of the West.

This should not surprise us because India and the West have had a shared prehistory. Sanskrit is the oldest remembered language of Asia and Europe. That the Indians and the Europeans shared the same homeland in remote antiquity has been the grist of ceaseless speculation. Indians are still connected to their past, which makes India a doorway for the discovery of the long-forgotten past of Europe.

But India appeals also because of its romance with the spirit. Indians have asked deep questions about out existence: Who are we? What is the nature of our inner self? They also claim to have found answers to these questions. The art historian and philosopher Heinrich Zimmer put it thus: "We of the Occident are about to arrive at a crossroads that were reached by the thinkers of India some seven hundred years before Christ. That is the real reason why we become both vexed and stimulated, uneasy yet interested, when confronted with the concepts and images of Oriental wisdom."

Columbus set out to find a new seaway to India and he ended up discovering America. Since then America and India have met in the realm of the spirit and, more recently, as partners in the development of information technology. In the 19th century, the Transcendentalists. Inspired by Indian thought, gave a characteristic orientation to America's self-definition. Mohandas Gandhi was, in turn, influenced by Thoreau, one of the Transcendentalists, to embark on his Satyagraha movement in South Africa and India. Half a century ago, Mohandas Gandhi's ideas influenced the civil rights movement in America. Most recently, Hindu wisdom about yoga, mind-body connection, and self-knowledge has swept the West. It appears that we are nearing the time when the quest of Columbus will be taken to its logical conclusion, to an under-standing the heart of the Indian civilization.

America is a country of great spaces and great appetites-both material and spiritual. The machines that are the foundation of America's material wealth compel conformity to their rhythms, leading to alienation, carpal tunnel syndrome, and angst about meaning. Americans are the most church-going nation of the world, but they are increasingly becoming aware of the limitations of organized religion and they seek psychologists and spiritual masters.

Indian spirituality, an unbroken sequence that goes back to hoary antiquity, holds a special fascination for the American. It is a spirituality that is non-sectarian, universal and unconnected to ritual. Addressing the deepest questions of meaning and knowledge, it seems to speak to man's innermost concerns in this age of science.

Indian wisdom has been replenished for each generation by its epics, literature, fables, and aphorisms. India, with its ancient remembered past, is a counterpoint to an America whose history is no more than five hundred years old. The epics, literature, fables and aphorisms from the sacred and secular texts of India contain distilled wisdom. But he truths discovered by the sages of India will find resonance in America and the rest of the world not primarily through the literature but by its living traditions.

In India these traditions have been under relentless attack by colonialist and Marxists politicians and historians, who have controlled the public discourse and contents of the textbooks for nearly 200 years. The intention to destroy India's own traditions of knowledge was articulated in Macaulay's famous Minute of 1835, which led to the establishment of a colonialist system of education that is still in force. Macaulay justified this by saying, "I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worthy the whole native literature of India…it is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England… We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect."

Macaulay's ignorance about India was matched by his arrogance. His ideas were challenged in his own times, but hey won the day because they suited Britain I its creation of a system which would make India dependent not only physically but also intellectually. Indian tradition was now interpreted for Indians by Western scholars who were ill-equipped to understand its complexity. Their synthesis cast Indian history in a mold that did it disservice. Indian civilization was called world-negating and mystical and shown as antithetical to the West.

Outside the halls of the ivory towers, the tradition was represented as being devoid of any real scientific achievement. The complexity of the social institutions was represented in the ill-fitting categories of hierarchical caste, and this, together with speculative philosophy, were declared to be the hallmarks of Indian civilization.

In practical terms, Macaulay's program led to the dismantling of the traditional system of village schools, which had provided universal literacy to the people. The village schools had great room for improvement but they were very effective and were one of the institutions of local power. When they were superseded by new schools, run by the British bureaucracy using an alien language whose benefit ordinary people could not see, children of the poorer classes simply pulled out. This led to the illiteratization of the great masses of the Indian population.

Central control was also disastrous for agriculture in many parts of the country where a system of tanks had existed for millennia. These tanks had been serviced by village councils. The English instituted a system of canal irrigation even where it was unsuitable and the local councils were disbanded. Soon, the tanks fell into disuse, the water table dropped because the ground water was not charged by the water in the tanks, and this had disastrous effects for agriculture.

In the colonial state, the idea of profit was replaced by that of service of the British empire. The new system of education was instrumental in the socialization of this view. The idea of the other-worldly Indian was promoted.

Those, especially in the cities, who learned about India from these textbooks soon came to hate their past. After independence, socialists seized control of institutions of education and the process set forth by the British was much accelerated. It is only now, fifty years after political independence, that an objective understanding of the foundations of Indian culture is beginning to emerge.

Those Indians, who have not internalized the imagined view of the Macaulayites, have always rejected it as false, because that is not how they saw themselves. The Indian view has always been to live life to the full, not only in body but also spirit. The essence of the Indian view is world-affirming and scientific.

Scholars have now found that a case can be made for the birth of the earliest geometry, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and many other sciences in India. In addition, India has had a very advanced tradition of contemplation and spiritual life.

About the Book:

The past two decades have brought revolutionary changes in the understanding of the Indian civilization. This essay, as an overview of this new understanding, is for the general reader. It is based on three invited lectures at Stanford University and the Berkeley and Irvine campuses of the University of California on 14 and 15 April 2000. Some comments on this work:

  • In the Wishing Tree: The Presence and Promise of India, Subhash Kak presents what is arguably the most complete, articulate and up-to-date overview on the entire Indic tradition. More notably, he speaks not from a dry academic standpoint but from one in contact with the very soul and spirit of the culture. His panoramic view covers spirituality, science, linguistics and history, making clear India's important role in world civilization past, present and future. He dispels the many current distortions and misinterpretations of India, the cobwebs of colonial and Euro centric thinking, and reveals her vast civilization in its true light. Everyone interested in India and in human civilization will be fascinated and transformed by his many-sided insights. They will never look at India again in the same way. - David Frawley, author of Gods, Sages and Kings and other book.

  • As a millennial retrospective of the trans-national journey of Indic ideas, The Wishing Tree: The Presence and Promise of India, is an auspicious augury of a Cultural Renaissance among diaspora Indians. Subhash Kak's language is lucid; it is at times very poetic. His speaking voice is firm and precise. Reading this volume made me think that perhaps what is worth preserving in Indic traditions will endure the ravages of colonial/postcolonial fragmentation. Indic ideas are both secular and sacred, scientific and spiritual, utilitrarian and unabashedly devoted to the principle of beauty. In his The Wishing Tree, Subhash Kak tells it all: with acuity, great insight and wisdom. - Lalita Pandit, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

About the Author:

Subhash Kak is a widely known scientist and Vedic scholar. Currently a professor at Louisiana State University, he has authored ten books and more than 200 research papers in the field of information theory, quantum mechanics, and Indic studies.

Contents

Preface

1
Introduction

2
A Bridge to the Future

3
Language Wars

4
Indology and Racism

5
India and Europe

6
Vedic Knowledge and Astronomy

7
A Distant Looking Glass

8
The Birth of Science

9
Cows and Unicorns

10
Light or Coincidence

11
The Circle of Faith

12
Rhythms and the Inner World

13
The Dance of Shiva

14
The Tree of Knowledge


The Wishing Tree (The Presence and Promise of India)

Item Code:
IDC845
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2001
ISBN:
8121510325
Language:
English
Size:
9.0" X 6.0"
Pages:
119
Price:
$22.50   Shipping Free
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Preface

The past two decades have brought revolutionary changes in our understanding of the Indian civilization. The chronology of the pre-historic period has been pushed back. Archaeologists tell us that the Indic civilization can be traced back in an unbroken sequence to at least 8000 BC. There is an even older rock art tradition that have been found all over India. Our understanding of the literature has also improved. Figures from the Vedas and the Puranas have started emerging into the historical narrative.

Although these findings are important in the self-definition of the Indian, they are being debated primarily in the pages of academic journals and at scholarly symposia. Most school text-books and other popular books still repeat old, incorrect notions.

This essay, as an overview of this new understanding, is for the general readers. It is based on three invited lectures gives at Stanford University and the Berkeley, and Irvine campuses of the University of California on 14 and 15 April 2000.

Introduction

What are the contributions of India to the world civilization? What does the latest research say about the antiquity of the Indian tradition? What relevance, if any, does India hold for the future? Can mainstream science benefit from Indic ideas? These are some of the questions I address in the is little book.

In the imagination of the West, India is the land of magic and mystery, wisdom and religiosity, tradition and ritual. India is exotic; its arts, literature, music, cuisine appear different. But, at the same time, there are aspects to India that speak straight to the heart of the West.

This should not surprise us because India and the West have had a shared prehistory. Sanskrit is the oldest remembered language of Asia and Europe. That the Indians and the Europeans shared the same homeland in remote antiquity has been the grist of ceaseless speculation. Indians are still connected to their past, which makes India a doorway for the discovery of the long-forgotten past of Europe.

But India appeals also because of its romance with the spirit. Indians have asked deep questions about out existence: Who are we? What is the nature of our inner self? They also claim to have found answers to these questions. The art historian and philosopher Heinrich Zimmer put it thus: "We of the Occident are about to arrive at a crossroads that were reached by the thinkers of India some seven hundred years before Christ. That is the real reason why we become both vexed and stimulated, uneasy yet interested, when confronted with the concepts and images of Oriental wisdom."

Columbus set out to find a new seaway to India and he ended up discovering America. Since then America and India have met in the realm of the spirit and, more recently, as partners in the development of information technology. In the 19th century, the Transcendentalists. Inspired by Indian thought, gave a characteristic orientation to America's self-definition. Mohandas Gandhi was, in turn, influenced by Thoreau, one of the Transcendentalists, to embark on his Satyagraha movement in South Africa and India. Half a century ago, Mohandas Gandhi's ideas influenced the civil rights movement in America. Most recently, Hindu wisdom about yoga, mind-body connection, and self-knowledge has swept the West. It appears that we are nearing the time when the quest of Columbus will be taken to its logical conclusion, to an under-standing the heart of the Indian civilization.

America is a country of great spaces and great appetites-both material and spiritual. The machines that are the foundation of America's material wealth compel conformity to their rhythms, leading to alienation, carpal tunnel syndrome, and angst about meaning. Americans are the most church-going nation of the world, but they are increasingly becoming aware of the limitations of organized religion and they seek psychologists and spiritual masters.

Indian spirituality, an unbroken sequence that goes back to hoary antiquity, holds a special fascination for the American. It is a spirituality that is non-sectarian, universal and unconnected to ritual. Addressing the deepest questions of meaning and knowledge, it seems to speak to man's innermost concerns in this age of science.

Indian wisdom has been replenished for each generation by its epics, literature, fables, and aphorisms. India, with its ancient remembered past, is a counterpoint to an America whose history is no more than five hundred years old. The epics, literature, fables and aphorisms from the sacred and secular texts of India contain distilled wisdom. But he truths discovered by the sages of India will find resonance in America and the rest of the world not primarily through the literature but by its living traditions.

In India these traditions have been under relentless attack by colonialist and Marxists politicians and historians, who have controlled the public discourse and contents of the textbooks for nearly 200 years. The intention to destroy India's own traditions of knowledge was articulated in Macaulay's famous Minute of 1835, which led to the establishment of a colonialist system of education that is still in force. Macaulay justified this by saying, "I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worthy the whole native literature of India…it is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England… We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect."

Macaulay's ignorance about India was matched by his arrogance. His ideas were challenged in his own times, but hey won the day because they suited Britain I its creation of a system which would make India dependent not only physically but also intellectually. Indian tradition was now interpreted for Indians by Western scholars who were ill-equipped to understand its complexity. Their synthesis cast Indian history in a mold that did it disservice. Indian civilization was called world-negating and mystical and shown as antithetical to the West.

Outside the halls of the ivory towers, the tradition was represented as being devoid of any real scientific achievement. The complexity of the social institutions was represented in the ill-fitting categories of hierarchical caste, and this, together with speculative philosophy, were declared to be the hallmarks of Indian civilization.

In practical terms, Macaulay's program led to the dismantling of the traditional system of village schools, which had provided universal literacy to the people. The village schools had great room for improvement but they were very effective and were one of the institutions of local power. When they were superseded by new schools, run by the British bureaucracy using an alien language whose benefit ordinary people could not see, children of the poorer classes simply pulled out. This led to the illiteratization of the great masses of the Indian population.

Central control was also disastrous for agriculture in many parts of the country where a system of tanks had existed for millennia. These tanks had been serviced by village councils. The English instituted a system of canal irrigation even where it was unsuitable and the local councils were disbanded. Soon, the tanks fell into disuse, the water table dropped because the ground water was not charged by the water in the tanks, and this had disastrous effects for agriculture.

In the colonial state, the idea of profit was replaced by that of service of the British empire. The new system of education was instrumental in the socialization of this view. The idea of the other-worldly Indian was promoted.

Those, especially in the cities, who learned about India from these textbooks soon came to hate their past. After independence, socialists seized control of institutions of education and the process set forth by the British was much accelerated. It is only now, fifty years after political independence, that an objective understanding of the foundations of Indian culture is beginning to emerge.

Those Indians, who have not internalized the imagined view of the Macaulayites, have always rejected it as false, because that is not how they saw themselves. The Indian view has always been to live life to the full, not only in body but also spirit. The essence of the Indian view is world-affirming and scientific.

Scholars have now found that a case can be made for the birth of the earliest geometry, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and many other sciences in India. In addition, India has had a very advanced tradition of contemplation and spiritual life.

About the Book:

The past two decades have brought revolutionary changes in the understanding of the Indian civilization. This essay, as an overview of this new understanding, is for the general reader. It is based on three invited lectures at Stanford University and the Berkeley and Irvine campuses of the University of California on 14 and 15 April 2000. Some comments on this work:

  • In the Wishing Tree: The Presence and Promise of India, Subhash Kak presents what is arguably the most complete, articulate and up-to-date overview on the entire Indic tradition. More notably, he speaks not from a dry academic standpoint but from one in contact with the very soul and spirit of the culture. His panoramic view covers spirituality, science, linguistics and history, making clear India's important role in world civilization past, present and future. He dispels the many current distortions and misinterpretations of India, the cobwebs of colonial and Euro centric thinking, and reveals her vast civilization in its true light. Everyone interested in India and in human civilization will be fascinated and transformed by his many-sided insights. They will never look at India again in the same way. - David Frawley, author of Gods, Sages and Kings and other book.

  • As a millennial retrospective of the trans-national journey of Indic ideas, The Wishing Tree: The Presence and Promise of India, is an auspicious augury of a Cultural Renaissance among diaspora Indians. Subhash Kak's language is lucid; it is at times very poetic. His speaking voice is firm and precise. Reading this volume made me think that perhaps what is worth preserving in Indic traditions will endure the ravages of colonial/postcolonial fragmentation. Indic ideas are both secular and sacred, scientific and spiritual, utilitrarian and unabashedly devoted to the principle of beauty. In his The Wishing Tree, Subhash Kak tells it all: with acuity, great insight and wisdom. - Lalita Pandit, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

About the Author:

Subhash Kak is a widely known scientist and Vedic scholar. Currently a professor at Louisiana State University, he has authored ten books and more than 200 research papers in the field of information theory, quantum mechanics, and Indic studies.

Contents

Preface

1
Introduction

2
A Bridge to the Future

3
Language Wars

4
Indology and Racism

5
India and Europe

6
Vedic Knowledge and Astronomy

7
A Distant Looking Glass

8
The Birth of Science

9
Cows and Unicorns

10
Light or Coincidence

11
The Circle of Faith

12
Rhythms and the Inner World

13
The Dance of Shiva

14
The Tree of Knowledge


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