Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Dharma of Collaboration

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Indians are a funny lot. They say “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” at the drop of the hat, then don’t do the hard, collaborative work to actually ensure Vijay. They wring their hands at the present state of affairs, but they refuse to work together to achieve the common good. They demand that all help them in their personal projects (or public projects for personal gain), but are not interested in supporting others. Worse, they complain and cry when they do not receive assistance from those they had refused to support  or opportunistically treated. That is the behaviour of children.

It is this childish intransigence, this recalcitrance of donkeys, that is the great bane of our society today. That is why this is a site for the Serious Person. Not the twerpish tweep who wants to feel included in a fun activity, not the opportunist who is looking to raise his profile or follower count, and not the traitor who cuts a side deal when the going gets tough. Bharatavarsha (and Jambudveepa) has for far too long tolerated those who sell out community interest for personal gain…the time is fast approaching for them to get “voted off the island”. Any community or family or tribe or state or nation is built on reciprocal duties and collaboration, and that is our topic for today.

I. Introduction

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This is a topic that dates back a long time for long time readers. As you may have read in our post Origins of Indian Stupidity, we severely criticised and berated the gyaani tendency towards individual success at team expense. That is why we specifically promoted the prong “Work as a Team, Dummy”. If you do not wish to work and cooperate across disciplines and specialties as a team, then no matter what your IQ, you are a dummy. All of us together are smarter than one of us [2], no matter what you believe your “Jedi” genetic code to express.

The belief that an individual or a select group alone could contribute to the cause is severely damaging. The crab mentality, diagnosed in Indians are Talkers not Doers, only underscores this absence of collaborative mindset. That is why we exhorted our Argumentative Indian to “Work as a Team, Dummy”.

Understand, first and foremost, that there are different types of intelligence and merit is not merely an exam score.

What is merit? Merely doing well on exams or swallowing and vomiting knowledge is not merit. Who has more merit, the poor labourer’s child studying by torchlight scoring 70 percent marks, or the privileged child with the benefit of a coaching class or a professor mother’s learning techniques, scoring 90 percent marks? Merit is not just analytical intelligence. Merit also includes competence, character, and strategic intelligence, which involves the ability to not merely perform a function per a set process, but to be able to see the big picture and adapt the function to changing requirements. If only one kind of intelligence is being emphasised in India today, it is because it makes for poor leaders, but excellent (white collar) labour.

II. Collaboration in a Globalized Context

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Tom Friedman has long come under (justifiable) criticism for writing platitudes, to the extent that a Tom Friedman Op/Ed Generator was developed. He was predictably panned for his The World is Flat thesis as “Flat Man” by an Indian writer. Nevertheless, by simply rubbing shoulders with the global business elite, however wrong his theories may be, he does have some useful and intelligent insights. Here is what he had to say on collaboration [all emphasis mine]:

Being a good collaborator or team leader will earn you a good new middle job for another reason. ‘We actually have no shortage of ideas,’ says John Doerr, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist. ‘What we are short is people who can execute them. Everyone has this image of the lone entrepreneur in a Silicon Valley garage. In reality, it takes teams of people to win, to translate a new idea into a new product.’ And the more complex the product or service, the bigger the team. That means, added Doerr, ‘that you need people who can work well with others, and, even more importantly, you need team leaders who know how to speak to people, explain, and inspire.” [2, 287]

Clough quoted the head of a big engineering firm, who told him recently, ‘Don’t send me engineers who can be duplicated by a computer. I am sending that work to India. Send me engineers who are adaptable—and can think across disciplines”. [2, 327]

“Jerry Rao, the cofounder of MphasiS, the big Indian outsourcing firm, put it to me this way: ‘We have no one going into the liberal arts and everyone going into engineering and MBAs. We’re becoming a nation of aspiring programmers and salespeople.’[no wonder everything Indian is for sale…] Fifty years ago, the Sanskrit scholar was respected in India, Mr. Rao noted, but today it is all about becoming an engineer, a programmer, an MBA, or a doctor. ‘More people will get Ph.D’s [in the study of] Sanskrit in America this year than in India,’ Mr. Rao asserted, ‘and Sanskrit is the root of our culture!’” p.320

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So while Indians are being outsourced the low-level code work or low level accounting or even low level science, medical, and legal work, the higher level matters pertaining to the standards, best practices, and even approach to aesthetics and Sanskrit are being retained or appropriated.

That is why our moronic youth are relying on buzzfeed India, huffpo India, and cosmo India to determine their narrative and sense of beauty.

To flourish in this age, we’ll need to supplement our well-developed high-tech abilities with aptitudes that are ‘high concept’ and ‘high touch’. High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative.” [2, 322]

So for our vomiting vidhyarthis and haughty vidvans, hastily dumping the knowledge they know about history or literature in a haphazard article is not the way forward. You may actually be shooting us in the foot and hurting our cause by recycling colonial propaganda or by writing for the enemy’s perpective focusing on their victories while forgetting ours. That is the value of the High Touch and why knowledge must be shared responsibly, not for your applause and acclaim, but for the benefit of the cultural and common cause. Otherwise, you’re merely buzzfeed lite.

The West has outsourced their labour to India, India has outsourced its thinking to the West. That is why critical thinking and strategic thinking are superior to mere subject matter knowledge. The best engineer is rarely the Chief Technical Officer, CEO, or Owner. Da Vinci and even Steve Jobs himself were embodiments of this.

Leonardo da Vinci was a great artist, scientist, and inventor, and each specialty nourished the other. He was a great lateral thinker. But if you spend your whole life in one silo, you will never have either the knowledge or mental agility to do the synthesis, connect the dots, which is usually where the next great breakthrough is found.” [2, 316]

One of the best examples of that I can think of is the story that Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple Computer, told about himself in a commencement speech at Stanford University (June 12, 2005).”

I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this…It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this even had a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography” [2, 318]

Further, the notion that someone has to support you or your caste or regional interests 100% otherwise he is your enemy or is “crooked”, only shows how morally bankrupt our current political culture is. When individual or caste interests are equated with state and national interests, then who is the one who is in fact “crooked”? The fake state guardian or the nakli nationalist is the one who wraps himself in the garb of state or national rhetoric while advancing his individual or caste agenda. Rather than saying “he is bad” or “No, he is bad”…maybe both have become bad, and both need to do some soul-searching. When you hate someone who shares 80-90% of your views and side with the common enemy who agrees with you on the other 10-20% simply to punish your own countrymen…then that is a textbook strategy for defeat. Why wail after the enemy turns on you next. The enemy works as a pack; no matter how powerful you are, you must do the same.

There is such a thing as the common interest. One does not cut down a common tree, merely because it gives fruits to your rival as well. It is the same way with families, communities, regions, nations, and common culture.

III. The Marginal Productivity of Teamwork

For the longest time people have criticised varna as breeding silo mentality, and today, plenty of evidence has been provided by our knaves to support this. But Varnashrama Dharma is not about living in silos and believing “only I have intelligence…or valour, or entrepreneurialism, and everyone must do what I say”. It is not about silo-isation, but about specialisation and collaboration. Even the Mahabharata refers to ministers and advisors coming from all four varnas. This is because for any kingdom or country to function properly, there must be understanding and respect for the capacity and skill set that each individual or sub-team has, rather than one person believing he is better than everyone.

Understand the principle of Combined Arms. A mass of ill-trained rabble, no matter how enthusiastic, will lose to the disciplined army using infantry, cavalry, and artillery in strategic fashion. This is why it is strategic intelligence that is the highest form of material intelligence. The musician, the linguist, the engineer, the physicist, the lawyer, the writer all have different forms of intelligence, but how can their club survive if there is no one who understands how they all go together and must work together? That is the value of strategic intelligence. That is the parable of the wheel and light. That is the value of working as a team as the 2004 US Olympic Team found out, coming in third after 20 years of dominating. A collection of the individually best players lost against tiny countries because the US team played as spoiled individuals and the others played as a team.

the automatic American superiority of twenty years ago is now gone in Olympic basketball. The NBA standard is increasingly becoming a global commodity—pure vanilla. If the United States wants to continue to dominate Olympic basketball, we must, in that great sports cliché, step it up a notch. The old standard won’t do any more. As Joel Cawley of IBM remarked to me, ‘Star for star, the basketball teams from places like Lithuania or Puerto Rico still don’t rank well versus the Americans, but when they play as a team—when they collaborate better than we do—they are extremely competitive.” [2, 338]

That is also the value of the High Touch, that was mentioned above. Steve Jobs had people who performed better at engineering…but because he understood how engineering should go with design, he was the CEO, not the top engineer in his group.

Those decrying Varnashrama Dharma (in principle, as opposed to injustices committed in its name) should also remember that many private corporations appoint only family members to the board. In many parts of Europe, only the nobility gains entry. These royals exist today—what about this caste system? And this applies even to modern corporations where people of a common community are selected.

Understand that it is not merely programmers and engineers today who are being made coolies, but now even doctors, lawyers, accountants, mathematicians. That is what happens when everything is run like a business. That is because those who wish to dictate and give instructions don’t want you to be able to think for yourself, or worse, work together outside their auspices. They just want you to perform a function…that is what is being outsourced to you. An Indian may be cheaper to employ than a European, but a Filipino is now even cheaper and a machine, cheapest of all. That is the value of critical thinking.

Instead of fretting and being upset that someone has developed capabilities outside of your silo, be glad. The work of a strategic planner is in fact very difficult and very stressful, particularly when he (or she) lives and works in the public eye. Be glad that you can happily study your literature and give your gyaan, while he has the stress of facing public attacks. All that you have been asked in return is to give back to your society by contributing your piece of the pie…your pebble. That is how Ram Raj is constructed. Some of us are outstanding at math, let us celebrate their capacity and be glad they are part of our team. Others are outstanding scientists. Excellent, let them learn to work as a team. Still others are talented musicians or literary critics. Great! Let them collaborate to teach others. This is the marginal productivity of teamwork, and the importance of cross-disciplinary thinking and strategic thinking.

If you insist on eternal and external analysis, but don’t have any solutions to offer, then you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Pride is your problem.

If you just realised that the obviously sickular site you supported because of your contest with a rival (or your delusions of grandeur) openly promotes politicians you despise, then you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Greed is your problem.

If you are attempting to improve your standing by bringing down the leading rival under the veil of “scholarly critique”, then you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Ambition is your problem.

And when your mutual enemy is praising your treachery, then you are truly lost.

Even more “sickening” are the hypocrites who behave as the conscience of the people, yet continue to opportunistically promote those who will advance their career, rather than work with those who safeguard principles. This band of careerist knaves is worst of all, and ,like the courtly parasites of yore, will issue prasastis for the flavour of the moment and occupier of the day. It is not a question of jumping for native or foreign, but how high. Kautilya despised such frauds.

Selfishness lies at the core of all these things. If Bharatavarsha has had a rough thousand years, it is because time and again, native rivals prioritised settling local scores over crushing common enemies, or lost heart after one setback or one battle. Remember, Prithviraj was no saint, but it is Jaichand whom we curse today. Learn to put aside rivalries by thinking long term rather than merely short. That is why you are told to know yourself and know your enemy, then you know how to prioritise enemies. Me and my brothers against my cousins, me and my cousins against the world. Selfishness is nothing but the refusal to priortise properly. Purniah found that out the hard way.

The reality is, treachery is not endemic to our people as is commonly asserted…usually by the colonised. National traitors existed and continue to exist in every culture (Benedict Arnold, Kim Philby, Delanoye are all names cursed by their countries). The question is, whether society as a whole, punishes this behaviour. India’s problem today is that such opportunistic, silo-minded, and myopic politicking backstabbers are viewed as “smart” rather than stupid or selfish. In other cases, excessive Moha by mothers, or brothers, or state compatriots leads to this excessive leniency to desh drohis as well. The Vidura Niti also speaks out against Kings who are “excessively merciful”. [4, 142]

Even if they don’t actually work for the destruction of their society, by merely being willing to gamble with societal security to improve their own standing, they have attained the infamy of “traitor”, and must at the very least be boycotted rather than rewarded with attention or business. Whatever may have been the law in the Satya, Treta, and Dvapara, do not expect Varnashrama Dharma to protect you from those consequences this late in the Kali. The costs of treachery are simply far too great. There is only one Law for National/Civilizational Traitors at this time.

Even worse, it is not merely communities that live in silos, but even individuals. Indians have taken the saying “every man is an island” to a ridiculous extreme.  If when facing a highly coherent, highly disciplined, and highly cohesive enemy you wish to fight from regional, caste, or individual silos, your shatrus will only laugh at the incoherent babble and pseudo-intellectual pinheads they have to face. You cannot fight as individual warriors, but must operate as a unit.

 You didn’t lose because you lacked valour, weapons, mardangi, or intelligence, you lost because you failed to work together effectively as a team. Yet even today, we have stubborn children bragging about IQ but refusing to work as a team, weeping over past defeats. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Remember, when such childish intransigence, such antagonisation of peers, and such adharmic knavery reaches a peak, the end result is vyasana. Because of your knavery, good men and women suffer and even die due to criminal negligence by their society. Why wail when your own sins revisit you and yours? “What did I do?!” you will ask. But the response will be “What didn’t you do?”. Remember, there are sins of commission and sins of omission, and all people, of all backgrounds and responsibilities, are accountable for both.

For our TFR fans, that alone is not a strategy, just a recipe for producing plentiful rabble. Numbers alone do not win the day, they just keep you in the match, and merely on the ropes. Without internal cohesion and internal collaboration, you will once again become prey to foreign machination and foreign collaborators.

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Even that great global symbol of collaboration, Wikipedia, stands to lose when cabals of private interest seek to undermine it due to personal agendas. No great collaborative project can survive if people fail to put aside personal interests in the name of the common good. Nobody will ever agree with you 100%. That is the nature of Free Will. But if every person seeks to “fight his own way”, how can you present a coherent front against a highly disciplined and highly motivated enemy? If you can’t collaborate, or at least, can’t avoid the tendency to obstruct, get off the field.

IV. Collaborate or Die

There cannot be 10,000 generals for an army division of 10,000. There is 1 general, a few subordinate commanders (and allied commanders), a few dozen captains, a few hundred lieutenants, and thousands of enlisted men. And the same principle applies for Armies and Army Groups and Theatres. World War II was won with a Supreme Allied Commander coordinating Countries, Generals, and Armies in each theatre. Compare with the Rajput Kings who besieged Lahore, but failed to liberate it from the Ghaznavids because they bickered over who would keep it. That is the problem we have today. It is not “we need not all be on the same side”. In the battle between Dharma and Adharma, there is no third party. There is no Switzerland. Such opportunists who fail to protect their Mother while discussing her downfall, cannot avail of her protection when they need it. If you can’t put aside your Ego for the common good, get lost.

Focus less on relative position to real or usually imaginary rivals, and prioritise absolute gains of your common society. Rama said he worked for Lakshmana’s happiness. The Pandavas collaborated with each other.

It is also important to mention that collaboration here does not refer to “foreign collaboration” or “foreign collaborators”. National traitors such as Ambhi, Jaichand, and Mir Jafar are often titled with this lowest of titles and statuses, but a better term for them is “cooperator”, because they themselves had been “coopted” by national enemies. And perhaps therein lies the problem. Cooperation now has less stigma than Collaboration …no wonder Indians are specialists at the former and terrible at the latter.

Capitalism, Communism, Feminism, Sickularism, Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, “Martial Races” , all are slave ideologies masquerading as liberation theologies. Catering to Greed, Hypocrisy, Gender Wars, Evangelisation, Persianisation, and (false) Pride, they provide the window dressing to help the Indian ghulam rationalise his or her exploitation (while behind closed doors the real masters [generally phoreign] laugh at Indian Stupidity).

This is how the foolish Indian rationalises his assigned subordinate position in his own native land. The slave basks in the reflected light of someone else’s glory, using native fuel. In contrast, rather than encouraging leaders, rulers, kings, and despots to be “charcoal burners”, Dharma encourages the diverse members of society and even humanity to become “garland-makers”. The common thread of dharma connects differing varieties of flowers, showing that there is nothing wrong in “Being Different”. No wonder the exemplars of composite culture are always berating Bharat Mata and Bharatiya Sanskriti…the slave ideology excuses them from the burden of being Indian. This is why they have no problem with this sign.

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This is what gives us that pathetic philistine and haughty ignoramus known as the Adarsh Liberal. In the name of fighting “saffronisation” he or she advocates or advances blanchification, olivification, rougification, or whatever other colour revolution du jour is expedient, just as long as his or her membership in the pseudo-elite du jour is confirmed by phoreign saab. After all, they aren’t really collaborators (since they have little if any say in design), but rather, co-operators, of Indian slavery to phoreign interests. The question is not “who” but “how much” to co-opt such quisling cowards.

That is why critical thinking is superior to rote-memorisation and recitation. That is why strategic thinking is superior to theoretical analysis-to-paralysis. An ounce of practice is worth more than a tonne of theory.

For those reciting (and mangling) Kautilya, remember too that he advised against foreign rulers and foreign sympathisers, and advised caution when dealing with more powerful allies. This is because to them, the country they misruled exists only for their enrichment. Personalities come and go. Kings die. Scholars pass away, but it is the institution, the body of work, the collaborative effort known as Civilization, that lives on.

VN_meandmycousinsFundamentally, the problem is our people have become so self-centered that they have become career free-lancers. When we can change companies, change passports, and change even wives…who needs loyalty to Dharma? For anyone familiar with Game Theory, Transactional opportunism will only get you so far. If you don’t have the sense to work as a team and to collaborate, how can you possibly succeed against those who do?

Hence, there is a need to define the Dharma of Collaboration: Sahakarana Dharma.

The very notion may seem strange, since, while the word may be familiar to many as there are Sahakaritas (cooperatives) in India, the notion of a Dharma of Sahakarana does not appear to have been called out. And yet, it nevertheless was intrinsic to Indic Society. Even moving past Varnashrama Dharma, where Kshatriyas politically led society, with others collaborating under their leadership (by giving advice, or financing public works, or by furnishing labour for common projects), Sahakarana Dharma existed within Agraharas, and Mathas, and Senas, and even Srenis. How else could common objectives be attained? Understanding how to work with, learn from, and teach not only in the context of superiors and subordinates but also peers, is a critical task for communities, monestaries, armies, businesses, and guilds to all function.

For our Jati champions, what can be a better example of Sahakarana Dharma than a Jati?—which is supposed to look after community members, help members in need, and preserve a common team culture? If you can have sahakarana dharma there, why can you not conceive of it on a grander scale?—are you that stupid?

Without Teamwork, there is no victory. As the great Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap stated, national unity achieves victory.

Therefore, sahakarana dharma exists as it can be found in microcosm. It need only be brought out to the macro-level.

So what is the Dharma of Collaboration and what is its root?

V. Sahakarana Dharma

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Sahakarana Dharma is rooted not only in Desa Dharma, but also in Nara and Stree Dharma. As we wrote in point 16 of Nara dharma  you are part of a society, and so, have a duty to it. As adduced in 21, we have a system of recognising and respecting seniority. Not just father and uncle, but elder brother and younger brother. Senior and Junior. Team captain and Teammate. When there is a place for everyone and everyone is in his place, then you can function like a team. In fact, you must function like a team. That was why the examples from the Ramayana and Mahabharata were provided. Four and Five brothers time and again showed exactly how to collaborate. Bharata was not an opportunist despite having a possible claim to the throne and Arjuna did not threaten his Elder brother for the throne, despite being the greatest warrior.

The Arthasastra is a source of Rajadharma and Praja Dharma. Kautilya wrote rules of behaviour for officers and officials seeking service with the King and how the King should behave towards officers and officials. [5, 206] He also describes how joint activities and joint campaigns by allied kings should be conducted. [5, 616] Even for the average person, Chanakya also mandated that while “No one shall interfere in the affairs of a neighbour, without due cause…every one has the duty to run to the help of a neighbour in distress“. [5, 370] Therefore, by recognising the need for a community of mutual assistance, by recognising the need for a team, by recognising various skill sets and intelligences, you understand sahakarana dharma.

Principles of Sahakarana Dharma

1.Control your temper

2.Restrain your Ego

3.Prioritise Team objectives over Personal Objectives

4.Don’t be a sore loser or a selfish pig

5.Harmonise Svadharma with Samaaja Dharma

6.Learn the value of “shut up”. If you don’t know, don’t talk and don’t waste time

7.A pound of practice is worth a Tonne of Theory. This also means practice, run simulations & drill

8.Rather than obstruct and self-destruct, construct and be constructive

9.Those who wish to command, must first learn to obey

10. Let the expert drive, let the synthesizer synthesise, and let the leader lead

11.Know before you talk. Understand before you act. Research before your strategise

12.Give everybody a chance, but competence is king and courtesy is queen

13.Think short term, medium term, long term

14.Learn to Prioritise and Prioritise Problem Solving

15.Be practical. Be flexible. Look for complementary skill sets

16.Learn to communicate effectively. Don’t air grievances publicly

17.Work as a team when it works. Divide when it helps. Rejoin when necessary

18.Ask for opinions, but don’t expect advice to be taken

19.Stop cutting side deals. Punish those who do

20.If you are absent during our struggle, do not expect to be present during our success

21.Win as a Team, Dummy.

VI. Principles & Explanations of Sahakarana Dharma

social-media-connectionsMany of these are rooted in our traditional Dharmic Smritis and Puranas, but many are not. Many of these are, of course, common maxims in the business world today. As the times have changed, so too must Dharma adapt. But these are more than just buzzwords like “synergy”, but in fact highly useful principles that are required for any team to succeed. And what is a family, community, state, or nation but a team on a large scale?

If your specialty is history, and so is someone else’s, then either find a sub-specialty or create one through personal study. Rather than being competitive, be complementary and complimentary. Rather than being upset about someone knowing more, ask why you know less, and either cultivate yourself, or support this person or, at last resort, avoid this person. To succeed, however, you must first learn to…

Control your Temper. This is a terrible problem for Indians. When the fear of firing or physical violence is taken away, then the Indian temper knows no limits—twitter is exhibit A. This not the behaviour of adults, but spoiled brats. Control your temper.

Yadhyapakaarini kopah kope kope evam kartthavyah |350

He who controls his anger totally wins over everyone. [1, 168]

Restrain your Ego. No matter how talented or “learned”, you are not that important. No one person is greater than the team. No one person is the best at every skill or subject. That is why Kautilya wrote Naasthyahamkara sama satru. Ego is one’s greatest enemy. [1] Therefore, however highly you may think of yourself, set aside your Ego at least when there is a common threat. Personal honour is rooted in community and national honour, never forget this. This is because human beings operate on the basis of heuristics. Whatever your personal reputation, when they meet you, what is the first thing they see? Therefore, prioritise Team objectives over Personal objectives. It is not just Dharmic thinking but Smart thinking.

Don’t be a Sore Loser or a Selfish Pig. This is a perennial problem with Indians. Rather than understanding how to win, they self-flagellate or combust when they lose. What’s more, there is this strange black hole of selfishness that puts even five year old children to shame when it comes to something they really want. If you don’t get you want, get over it. Either wait your turn or try again later. Elections, positions, and titles are rarely permanent. So wait your turn and win the next time around. Don’t sulk like a child if you don’t get your way.

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Contrary to popular thinking, Svadharma is not an invitation to treachery. In fact, svadharma means understanding your dharma with respect to societal needs. The buffoon who prioritises his own Moksha above societal well-being will attain neither. That is why Yudhisthira’s example of refusing heaven if his canine companion was not also let in remains an example to this day. The king who is so noble as to link his own salvation with that of his subject is the king who is fit to lead. This is because the true leader is not an opportunist. He doesn’t jump from ship to ship based on the direction of the wind. That is why it is important to harmonise one’s individual goals with societal goals, rather than the other way around. That is why Aspiration is superior to Ambition.

 

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Learn the Value of “Shut up”. Shut up, listen, and learn. No matter how high your iq or who knowledgeable you are, there is always something you can learn, even from the least of personalities. Rather than expose your weaknesses to the enemy, the value of silence teaches you to wait for the enemy to expose his own weaknesses. When you learn to listen, you learn how to resolve problems, and ultimately, how to win.

Saasthroapi lokajno moorkha thulyah | 541

One who has the scriptural knowledge but no worldly knowledge is like a fool. [Again the fact is being emphasized that the scriptural dictates and social norms must concur.] [1, 189]

A Pound of Practice is worth a Tonne of Theory. Indians may love to memorise frameworks (usually marxist, but increasing MBA). At the end of the day, however, nothing beats first hand knowledge, and that comes from practice. As useful as direct combat (verbal or otherwise) may be, practice begins even before performance. Between theory and application is training. It is imperative that one train not just through memorisation, but through simulation and drill. When we are mentally and physically in shape, then we are truly fit for action.

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Rather than obstruct and self-destruct, construct and be constructive. When you are trying to build a solution, or a house, or a strategy, it is important to focus on the task at hand rather than use this as an opportunity to infight or bring up old issues. Focus not on personalities but on practical matters. This not the time to win debates, but to exchange ideas. Brainstorm and build solutions that achieve the common task. Otherwise, shut up.

Atmachhidhram na pasyathi parichhidhrameva pasyathi baalishah | 342

Only a fool concentrates on finding faults in others and not in his own self [1, 168]

Those who wish to command must first learn to obey. This is a well known dictum dating back to the ancient world. The best leaders are those who don’t just give orders. They understand what it takes to execute orders. So before you can become a general, you must first be a jawan, or at least a lieutenant. Rather than expecting special treatment, gain trust through a track record of competence and performance. Anyone can give gyaan. The one who is promoted is the one who shows reliability, loyalty, competence, and tenacity. It is also key training for the higher position. The leader who understands how the system functions is the one who can give competent commands. That is the importance of sajjakarman, or preparation.

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Let the expert drive, let the synthesiser synthesise, and let the leader lead.
Despite spilling as much ink as they have over varnashrama dharma, Indians have an odd tendency to forget about the importance of division of labour. What else can be expected in a country where people name children after dictators such as Stalin. Everyone thinks it is a zero sum game where all must try to become such a dictator. But teams are not driven by dictatorship. They are driven by sound collaboration. Every person has their talent or potential talent. Let subject matter experts drive their individual areas and give their views, let the managers and synthesisers put it together, and let leaders use all these inputs to develop strategies and assign pieces of the pie. Know before you talk. Understand before you act. Research before your strategise. When people just want to issue instructions like a gyaani, without underlying subject matter expertise, what else can be expected but failure? Play as a team, identify talents, and know when to step aside and let someone drive.

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Give everybody a chance, but competence is king and courtesy is queen.
Indian egos are prickly enough as it is. The last think we need are thin-skinned gyaanis fulminating or quitting over being sidelined, neglected, or ill-treated. While people should wait their turn, eventually a chance should be given when the opportunity comes based on an individual’s competence. Not everyone is leadership material, but by giving them a chance when the stakes are low and when their competence has been demonstrated, their loyalty to the team will only grow. And whether they have the right stuff or not, always remember, courtesy is queen. How you communicate to someone is frequently as important as what you communicate. Learn to communicate effectively. Don’t air grievances publicly.

collaboration

Be practical. Be flexible, and look for complementary skill sets. It is true that some aspects of life, such as the functioning of a yajna, the march of an army, and so on, required strict hierarchy and strict implementation of a ritual, precise pronunciation of a mantra, and obedient execution of a command. But also understand that at the higher strategic level, some flexibility, some times is required. Balance is needed between standardisation and intellectual creativity. One cannot be an excuse to stifle another. By being practical, we know when to give, when to take, and when to simple suck it up and get on with it. That is the value of understanding complementary skill sets. Sometimes someone, no matter where on the hierarchy, just knows better…and that’s ok. Being prepared to accept that and take (or refuse) advice is a sign of strength. Ask for opinions, but don’t expect advice to be taken.

Balance details with the Big picture. Excessive nitpicking wastes time, but critical details should be communicated. If you don’t get your way, don’t be a mummy’s boy and sulk. Just accept it as the decision of the group and move on, without wasting time. Silence is Golden.

VN_Silence

Learn to Prioritise and Prioritise Problem Solving.
Selfishness is the refusal to prioritse properly. If people refuse to recognise that the good of the community comes before the good of the individual, the result is greed. But how does one prioritise? Dharma helps us understand what matters.  In fact, Rajdharma is nothing but long-term politics. Therefore, think short term, medium term, long term, and that will help you understand how to prioritise, with long term mattering the most.

Work as a team (Upayojana or Vahni). Most of life’s great endeavours are not individual. For the longest time, even attainment of moksha was accomplished as part of a sampradaya. The highly individualistic cancer of this highly individualistic era of materialism, has caused us to gradually deny the divinity of flora, then fauna, then finally fellow humans. Learning to work for common good is not communist collectivism. Individual responsibility is not capitalistic selfishness. Reject the binary and work as a team of capable individuals. If work can be divided to sub-teams or individuals, then do so, but then regroup. If the team leader after a decent term is not performing, politely have him or her step down. If the team is not succeeding, then dismiss and try again later. Also remember, being unable to help is not the same as not helping. Just don’t cut side deals and sell out.

BLog-Us-vs-Them-Work-Culture-Silos-prolearn-academy

One of the most pathetic stories on Wikipedia involving an Indian had to do with a debate ironically about Dharma. A European had been mangling the page, removing all references to Hinduism. When a competent Hindu editor was attempting to restore, an argument broke out. A third editor, who was also Hindu and concerned about Hindu issues, attempted to intervene. While initially accepting the validity of what the second editor had to say, the third editor progressively began to waffle. Finally, after a separate side discussion, he effectively cut a deal with the European, and the two became “friends”, and the debate was (narrowly )lost because he refused to aid the other Hindu.

So friendly did he become with the European, that he began sending a list of the names from a prominent Internet Hindu yahoogroup, because the European had been mentioned. This was “Adharma” and “unfair” in his eyes…but apparently treachery wasn’t, in his book. As time wore on, this buffoon was singing “Ye dosti” planning editing efforts with his “friend”. So immature was his behaviour that even the European called him “a child” and genially (and condescendingly) chided him for his child-like credulity. But as could be predicted, one day, this foreign “friend” went too far in his anti-Hindu edits for our resident idiot, and he combusted in indignant bombast, citing that the European was “crossing all limits”. What did he expect? Because this stupid Indian had now lost his utility, this European ganged up with his European friends and had this Hindu editor banned. This is the fate of traitors who cut side deals. Fight when you have the chance and numbers, rather than wait for the crocodile to come for you.

VN_foolishfriendSo, if you are absent during our struggle, do not expect to be present during our success. The cheerleaders, the fake friends, the half-hearted supporters, the faint-hearted outragers, the petty and jealous rivals, none of these will have a seat at the table if they fail to do their Dharma. Dharma requires frequently working with those whom you cannot stand. It requires placing the common good above individual good, and so called “friendships”. That is why fallen soldiers and officers who fall in the line of duty are so honoured. Their sacrifice ensured not only that our society can survive, but that their own family can survive as well. It is not living that matters, but living rightly. So when your neighbours, and community members, and countrymen are suffering, do not turn a blind eye. Give what help you can. 5 or 10% will not break your bank. If it means skipping hakka noodles at the hotel once a month, you can survive. But do not be absent during the fight and expect to be accorded a hero’s welcome or a share of the pie if you did not earn it.

winasateam

Win as a team, Dummy.
The single greatest obstacle facing us today is the refusal to work and win as part of a team. Each idiot desires to be an army of one, at best working to ensure only his hero or anointed saviour can lead the way.  The obsession with individualistic games like cricket and tennis has only underscored this. Remember how an excellent doubles pair in Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi simply refused to play together due to Ego issues. When the team comes first, ego issues fade away. You don’t have to be best friends, you don’t have to be brothers, you just have to be professional and be civil and get the job done.  If you would rather prioritise your ego trip over the safety and security of your civilization, then do not whine if it gets destroyed. Ask yourself if the petty injustice and small scale cheating you have to face is worth the death or dishonour of women and children. These are the stakes of collaboration or lack thereof.

social-networkThat is why this exegesis on Sahakarana Dharma was required. If it did not exist in explicit terms before, it is because Rishis and Munis and Lawgivers like Apastambha expected their descendents to have common sense…Sahakarana Dharma was implicit and obvious to all but the selfish idiot. Due to the stupidity of the modern Indian, Sahakarana Dharma, the Dharma of Collaboration, is the need of the hour.  Work as a Team, Win as a Team, that is the Way to Victory.

References:

  1. Chaturvedi, B.K. Chanakya Neeti. New Delhi: Diamond. 2015.
  2. Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.  New York: Picador. 2007.
  3. Malhotra, Rajiv. “Garland-Making and Charcoal Burning”. http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/h_es/h_es_malho_plural_frameset.htm
  4.  Vidura Niti
  5. Rangarajan, L.N.. Kautilya. Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin.1992.

Thoughts about Bharat Mata on “Mother’s Day”

bharatmatacharan

At first glance, many of the anglicised (reluctantly or otherwise) may wonder why, on Mother’s day of all days, I would write a piece on the Clash of Civilizations. The more ardently suspicious of anything foreign may even say “We’re Bharatiya, for us, every day is Mother’s Day!” [much to every Bharatiya daughter-in-law’s chagrin…] or “Parent’s Worship Day was on February 14th!”.

And yet, at the same time, perhaps there is a need for reasserting precisely why Civilizational understanding is so crucial. After all, “know yourself and know your enemy, and you will be victorious in a hundred battles”.   Civilizational contribution is not merely a once in while, recreational activity. Nor is it a favour to do to make nagging friends (or mothers) happy. Rather, it is a fundamental duty for those who care about all that is good and sacred in this world.

Bharat Mata

bharat-mata-pic-312934.4The idea itself is being made taboo by the self-same global citizens who happily have no loyalty. To them, their own libido is the greatest good. When you get your morality from moral degenerates, what value will you have for your mathru bhoomi? The point isn’t prudery or even moral posturing. Even the most flawed of persons is worth listening to if he or she is speaking the truth. But when moronic Marxists famously state “there is no truth”, only “perspective” then there is no fact—only opinion, and every idiot can live in his or her own perspective since “perception is reality”. But perception isn’t reality. There is objective truth, and the goal of every person should be to put aside ahankara and svaartha to understand it.

The fact remains, whatever the antiquity of the name “Bharat Mata”, the idea of the mathru bhoomi has always been a part of Dharma. Motivated “histories” by academic propagandists love to cite stray cases of the Chalukyas or Mauryas as examples of temple iconoclasm, which they in fact weren’t. Here, the murthis (statues of Gods) were not destroyed, but simply relocated. Because in each case the particular form of a devata was the “personification of the state”. As Virupaksha was to Vijayanagara, as Eklingji was to Mewar, so too were these respective divinities to the Pallavas and Kalingas. Kharavela famously took back Kalinga’s state murthi after avenging Utkala against Magadha. Unlike with the Linga of Somnath in the medieval period, Magadha did not destroy the murthi of the Mahameghavahanas. Even going as far back as the Mahabharata, we see the import of desa.

“Tyajet ekam Kulasyarthe, Gramasyarthe Kulam tyajet; Gramam Janapadasyarthe, Atmarthe prithivim tyajet”

But of course, according to NIRs, patriotism is ok for Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Germany, and even the US. Only in India do pseudo-historians ministering to pseudo-Indians make it taboo. But then, the love of adarsh liberals for everything but India is all too well known. Their “Idea of India” after all is about “Breaking India”. No wonder they have little love for “Bharat Mata”. Columbia, Britannia, and of course, Roma, can all be venerated, but Bharat Mata must be psycho-analysed and pseudo-historicised to oblivion. So who cares what they think anyway? They aren’t really even Indian.

But then, what to do when our much ballyhooed braggarts have been ultimately feckless in their efforts? Any idiot can get on his digital soap box and obscenely outrage, tweet, and even “weep” for his country. But the true patriot doesn’t weep or whine, even when he (or she) is wounded. He quietly does his work and aims to restore that which is most precious to him. He even puts aside rivalries (excepting opportunistic traitors and pusillanimous careerists of course) and petty jealousies to ask and do what is in the common interest: Better to defeat a common alien foe than win against a native rival under common slavery.

That is the value of strategic thinking over pompous pedantry. Victory is not about he who outrages (or gives gyaan) the most. It is not about sending soldiers to fight the other guy’s soldiers. It is not about surrounding the other guy’s fortresses. Victory is about defeating the other guy’s strategy. Hence the time tested dictum of Sun Tsu: “The great general first seeks victory, then seeks battle”. Our idiots are ready to battle even without taking stock of the situation and understanding precisely what faces us. That is the problem Rajiv Malhotra has been justifiably and angrily tweeting about time & again. It is also precisely why he, above all, was targeted by malicious smear campaigns to begin with.

Our well meaning morons act before thinking or talk rather than doing. He thinks before acting—guess which approach the other side finds more threatening? Our idiots engage in the most vicious and most malicious petty politicking against their own side, but then suddenly find their conscience and preach “dharma” when fighting the shatru…our real shatru. That is why there is a separation between adhyatmika and laukika vidya. Sastra, Sanctimony, and Pseudo-Science will not win war. Strategy is the realm of the statesman and senapati —not the srotriya. Whatever your caste, understand this cannot be about caste. The focus must be on what will safeguard us, all of us, that is true pragmatism.

Gyaani Complex Continues

Those of you who like to tweet or retweet like robins on crack without thinking, and give gyaan without processing, need to understand that this not about time pass. Nor is this about individual efforts. A perennial favourite phenomenon is the darthi ke laal who cry for their country day in day out but then refuse to work as a team, or prioritise giving gyaan over participating in collaborative efforts at documenting and preserving the common culture. For them, insolent behavior and glib one-liners are the highest good.

Even funnier are those clueless tweeps who are forever wasting the time of people like Malhotra who don’t have time for petty banter or for idiotic questions that could best be gathered by…Google.

You aren’t fooling anyone. You, the serial outrager, You the the prevaricating pontificator, You the phony moraliser. Just because you produce pedantic piffle, does not mean your hypocritical moral indignation is not undercut by your obvious, private petty politicking.

Intellectual arrogance serves no one but the enemy, least of all when it’s by those who have little action beyond self-promotion to show for. And sacrificing critical thinking to submit to the diktat of extra-party institutions is no way to victory either. Dharma was, is, and always will be about decentralised power.  This is because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Everyone is out for his pound of flesh, who is looking to preserve the common boat? 

When we value possessions over people, Libertinism over Life, this is what we get. Who is not tempted?-by fame, by flesh, by finance? The questions isn’t temptation, it’s whether our conscience speaks out and wins out over cravings, cowardice, and cruelty.

Glib one liners are easy to produce. Facile factoids are facile to recite. The question is whether you have the discipline to consistently focus on the necessary over the popular, you applause hungry monkey. What have you sacrificed for society?

It is not a Clash of Civilizations, but verily a Clash for Civilization

 Clash civilizations.jpg

Ironically, despite the famous Huntingtonian riposte to the Fukuyama Thesis, and in spite of the Kaganesque revival, what we (and in fact, the world) face, is not a clash of civilizations, but verily, a clash for civilization.

Understand what is at stake. Romance didn’t die because of the West. Romance died in the West because it modernised and post-modernised. Why is India on the same track?

Family didn’t break because of the West. Family broke in the West because it modernised and post-modernised. Why is India on the same track?

Incest and perversion weren’t traditionally advocated by the West. It is advocated now because the West modernised and post-modernised. Why is India on the same track?

So for all its moralising, perhaps the West should turn its attention back on its own moral state, and tend to the crumbling edifice of its civic society, rather than hectoring India on crime statistics where western nations in fact perform much worse. Otherwise, political agendas become all too obvious and apparent, and spotlights shine back.

When sacred bonds between man and woman, brother and sister, father and daughter, and son and mother are desacrilised, destroyed and perverted to animal behaviour on the basis of “nature” and “freedom of choice”, then what else could we possibly have besides Matsya Nyaya (law of the fish).

Is the answer to turn back the clock? No. Without modern technology and knowledge, how will you defend yourself? Is the answer to unthinkingly apply the smriti? No, times have changed, and mistakes have been made along the way. What civilization is free of mistakes?

We also have made our fair share. There are some Brahmins today who eat beef and many Dalits who refrain from it. Why is the first feted and the second deprecated? Times have changed, even lineages are broken. The true brahmana is known through his conduct, that is why he is respected for not only speaking on morality but also for providing a moral example to emulate: that is the true purpose of a Brahmana. So it is long past time we assimilate Dalit communities and fight for their downtrodden in full zest.

Some cultures now seek to destroy civilization itself. Others have forgotten or have been made to forget it. And the West is ever increasingly rejecting it. Why do Indians seek to repeat the same mistakes? Why are Indian women glorifying the SATC consumer lifestyle and abusing 498A?. Why are Indian men seeking to become shameless and asinine “Red Pill” pick up artists, condemning women? Why are Indian parents increasingly being left in hospices masquerading as retirement homes?

While we are importing intellectually bankrupt Western “liberation” theories under lazy rebranding efforts, Westerners are increasingly taking to Indian perspectives. The point is not about fashionability, supremacy, racism, or racialism. It is about understanding what civilization is actually about. Before you can protect it, you must understand what it actually means.

While Comprehensive National Power, weapons, bank balances, are all important, it is not your bank balance that protects you and your society, but your values. Why was there no succession crisis in Ayodhya? Why didn’t the sons of Dasaratha fight among themselves for the throne? Why do idiot brothers (let alone idiot politicians) backstab each other today? How can you ever protect your civilization or society if you can’t even protect your own family…from itself?! That is why values matter, that is why morality matters. Ethics protects us from others, Morality protects us from ourselves. That is why Bharata remains a shining example in the face of the ambitious and ahankari mediocrities we have today.

“Dawkins this”. “Ayn Rand that”. “AIT uber alles”. Don’t you douchebags have any capacity for critical thinking? Just because you went to IIT doesn’t mean you understand history and strategy—even if you can rote-recite it. Just because you have a successful  popsicle stand business doesn’t mean you understand the modern business world. When there are numerous well-educated politicians who don’t know the full story, what makes you, some loser twenty-something with a receding hairline, dubious fashion sense, and general ignorance of your own stupidity, what makes you think you know it? Shut up, listen, and learn. Better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

Why the Laconic Chinese run circles around the Argumentative Indian

A rickshawallah can be respected for sheer anubhava (experience). That is why even the brilliant Chanakya wrote:

Naasthyahamkara samah shatruh | 287

Arrogance is one’s greatest enemy.

And

Vinayasya moolam vruddhopaseva | 6

The root of humility is in the service of the seniors—elderly or older persons. When one renders honest service to elders one learns the worth of humility.

Thus, it is vruddhopaseva itself that is the key to wisdom, despite many a philos for philognosis. Humble yourselves, ye high and mighty morons, and you will realise that true wisdom lies in humility.

The current batch of “young guns” and swaggering studs are nothing but a bunch of over-credentialed, over-bold and unthinking duds. If they don’t understand the concept of chain of command and the strategic value of respect for elders, and the necessity for collaborative action over individualistic pontification, they are as good as the children they behave like.

All it takes is one look at the fate of yazidis or the cultural genocide of a certain Himalayan people to realise just how deadly the danger is to our “darthi”. Despite the stakes, we still have tone-deaf, selfish, overly-ambitious, and unjustifiably arrogant ass-clowns whose preferred pass-time is condescension to those perceived as “beneath them”, combustion before those who show they are “above them”, and perennial misanthropy in between. In the process, they dilly-dally, navel-gaze, “eat samosas and give commentary”, all while civilization itself is on the brink. If they find some area in which an actual karma yogi does not have expertise, their first inclination is to tear him down, as was attempted with Malhotra and the Battle for Sanskrit.

That’s why it is ultimately amusing to see the sheer number of pompous, pedantic, and pusillanimous pugilists giving him unsolicited advice in the most disrespectful of manners. Let them first accomplish a millionth of what he has on behalf of society, then they can open their foul traps and give their juxtaposing judgments and endless opinions, which are, indeed, very much like themselves…

However moronic the masses may be for ignoring dangers facing us and mouthing unthinking bromides such as “We are all global citizens, yaar”, “Don’t be regressive, be progressive!”, “Arey aish karo, yaar!”, “YOLO” or “Bindaas”, I can’t, in fact, be too hard on them. After all, ignorance is bliss…who can blame them?

But the question is, what are you who are in the know, you who are aware, you who make pretense to being part of the elite, what are you doing…besides talking and tearing others down?

Gender wars, Caste-conflict, Sampradaya battles, general infighting, ambitious politicking, failure to respect chain of command, lack of unity, emotional indiscipline, and above all, inability to shut up, listen, and learn, are all putting Bharatavarsha on a collision course with catastrophe. And you are responsible…yes…You!

Make no mistake, there is a storm, and the storm is coming. You have been told to wake up. You have been advised to prepare. You have been warned to correct. And now, the reckoning is upon us.

What’s the point, yaar”, say our bollywood addled “kool dudes”. Yes, what is the point, you spoiled brat. You enjoyed your privileges, you gamed the system, you got your degree, Ayn Rand told you selfishness is virtue, you don’t care. But then don’t whine when you find yourself in need, and there’s no one around to help you. Real intelligence doesn’t lie in gaming the system. Real intelligence lies not in simplistically raising A to fight B, but in long-term strategic thinking.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the question is whether Bharatiyas have the sense to put aside their differences and focus on the big picture…at least until common foes are tackled. Whatever jokes are made about them regarding barbarity and the like, a certain land of horse-breeders has a famous dictum:

Me and my brothers against my cousins.

Me and my cousins against the world.

Some may dub them as fools, but at least they aren’t stupid. The same cannot be said for Indians …of all castes …who were long ago dubbed as knaves. Ostensibly their policy is:

Me and the world against my cousins! Me and my cousins against my brothers!

If ever there were a recipe for slavery, it is this…

Caste battles to oblivion. Missing the Woods for the Trees. Destroying states wholesale for petty politics. Allowing the senses to run wild without even the slightest bit of self-control or shame. Celebrating the shameful and making celebrities out of the shameless. But above all, forgetting even the basic sanctity of relationships between young and old, and justifying exploitation in the name of “freedom of contract”, all these things only play into the hands of those wish to destroy us.

Shri S.Gurumurthy famously coined the phrase “Bahuka Economics”. Is that not what we have today? Kakistocracies have always existed since the days of Kamsa. His own minister suggested the following policy: When people themselves are willing to sell the very rope by which they are hung, all in the name of swatantrata, then we know stupidity has reach its maximal limit.

Responses to date have mostly been tone-deaf, uni-dimensional, and based on reaction rather than action. Blindly mimicking once mighty and courageous, but ultimately failed models, will only lead us to the path of destruction. That is why one must look past surface level analyses and understand what is truly authentic. Aping others will only lead to “mimic men” of a different sort. To ultimately succeed, we must look within and understand who we truly are.

Many, of course, are overwhelmed by the task. Some have been coerced and others compromised. Still others simply refuse to face facts and prefer to keep their heads in the sand or up somewhere else. After all, it is easy for the ambitious and knavish to join with a more powerful enemy than to fight against great odds.

But it is in fact in the face of great odds, that we find out just who we truly are. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is having fear, but saddling up anyways to protect what means the most to you.

Not just things, not just land, not even just people. But in fact, something beyond the sum of all our parts, persons, and possessions: an ideal

When possessions mean more than our parents, When social partying matters more than societal prosperity, When physical relations means more than relational love, When money matters more than morality, When perversion matters more than promises…

What hope is there for society?

For all the armchair acharyas and chicken-hawk “chankias”: anyone can talk tough. Starting wars is easy, it is finishing wars that becomes difficult. The Germans found that out, twice. Before you first begin fighting, you must first fully understand what it is that you are fighting for. Then and then only will you know not only know where to fight, or whom to fight, but even what to fight…for it may very well start within yourself.

What is it that we are fighting for? What is it that we are striving for? What is it, that one idea, that one word, that one syllable that creates culture, that composes the very word of our highest ideal, from which all relationships stem from, the greatest of all goods, synonymous with right over wrong, the very beating heart of civilization itself?

   DharMA

                            Vande MAtaram              

                                                                               mere paas MA hai

                                                    MAthru Devo Bhava

                                                         a aa e ee nerpina amMA

                                                                                             Meri MA nu na dasseo

                                                                                                 AmMA endrazhaikkaatha

                                                                                                         MA oh meri ma

                                                                                 kalithozhiMArenne kaliyakki  

                                                                                                         MA tume maamatara

                       nisvarth prem maatrishwar no ane MAta no chhe

                                                           Kab door bahar chaMAn se

               Bharat MAta ki Jai

Introduction to Ganita

Lilavati1Bhaskara2
Lilavati by Bhaskaracharya 2

This introductory blog provides the background for an upcoming Ganita series here at ICP. All emphasis within quotes is by this author.

Losing one glove is certainly painful,

but nothing compared to the pain,

of losing one, throwing away the other,

and finding the first one again. 

—Piet Hein, Danish Mathematician

Introduction

Though often compared with the field of Mathematics, Ganita is best defined as the science and art of computation that originated in India. This is based on the definition offered by Ganesha Daivajna in his commentary (1540CE) on the classic Ganita treatise Lilavati of Bhaskara-2 [1]. Other descriptions of Ganita include ‘computing science’, ‘reckoning’, ‘science of counting’, ‘science of calculation’, etc. Although Ganita is related to Mathematics, they are not the same. The practice of Ganita cuts across multiple areas including Mathematics, Computing, Science, Logic, Analytics, etc. The term Mathematical Sciencesmay be closer to Ganita There is no exact English equivalent for the Sanskrit word Ganita, and it is better to use ‘Ganita’ as is.  

An ancient extant work of Ganita is the Sulvasutras (Sulbasutras), which are the oldest texts of geometry dating back to 800 BCE or earlier [1]. A verse in the Vedanga Jyotisha (1100 BCE or earlier) attests to the pride of place occupied by Ganita in ancient India.

Like the crest on the peacock’s head,
Like the gem in the cobra’s hood,
So stands Ganita*,
At the head of all the sciences.

The Ganita Culture of India

Indians are famous for their Ganita prowess. The greatest Persian scholar of his time, Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna, 10-11th CE) found that an Indian vegetable vendor’s calculating skills were superior to anything he knew [1].  European visitors during colonial times were astounded and remarked that “the natives of India are remarkable for the facility with which they acquire the mathematics; and indeed they excel in anything in which figures or numbers are concerned”.  The East India Company promised a reward of twenty pounds to its soldiers if they could learn arithmetic from the Indians [2]. It is well known that the word ‘algorithm’ comes from Algorismus, the latinization of ‘Al-Khwarizmi’, the person who translated several Sanskrit texts of Ganita (e.g. those of Brahmagupta) into Arabic. Thus, an algorithm implies the Indian method of computation, i.e., ‘Ganita’.  Much of Ganita and its methods made its way to Europe, first through Arab translators, and later through Jesuit priests stationed in India [3].

The Ganita curriculum in Indian schools prior to European colonization was functional, pragmatic, autonomous, and also guided by, and customized to local needs. The method of teaching Ganita in schools was ahead of its time. Researchers attribute this success to: “a culture of pedagogy grounded in a form of memory very different from the modern associations of memory with rote or mechanical mode. This could be characterized as recollective memory where memory practices constituted a distinct mode of learning and not merely aids to learning”[2]. 

To this day, the Ganita prowess, ability to recall, and the computing literacy of Indians is second to none. It is no coincidence that Indians excel in STEM disciplines. Understanding how Ganita works and what lies at its core is useful and interesting. Ganita can be a refreshing complement to the dull and dry Math taught in schools today. Training young minds to apply the Ganita approach to problem solving can offer them a competitive advantage. Manjul Bhargava, Fields Medal winner, is an example of a contemporary scholar who scaled the peak of Mathematics and is also well versed in Ganita and aware of its Indian tradition.

Above all, Ganita is a precious part of India’s heritage and culture. It is inevitable that India will regain its lost political and economic freedom. But this can and must be achieved without selling out or forgetting its traditions and indigenous knowledge systems like Ganita, Yoga, and Ayurveda. The trauma of a civilization that realizes that it squandered away its priceless cultural treasures will be unbearable.

The Scope of Ganita

This introductory video of an excellent IIT lecture series on Indian contributions to mathematics provides a good overview of Ganita. It was recognized that Ganita’s applications span the secular and sacred domains without any artificial distinction between the two. This integral nature of Ganita was embraced by all the great Buddhist, Jaina, and Hindu scientists and astronomers since ancient times.

pervasiveness ganithasarasangraha mahaviracharya 2
source: IIT lecture series on Ganita [1]
India’s Rishis and Ganita experts attributed their astonishing insights to a sacred source. The practice of Ganita offered a valid means of attaining this infinite, transcendental knowledge, and through this process, skilled practitioners also came up with ingenious practical solutions to a variety of problems.

Sacred Source of Ganita

Panini (BCE)

The Siva Sutras in Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, which one can consider as an early example of the Indian approach to science, were revealed to Panini (pronounced: Paanini) via the sacred sounds from Shiva’s Damru. In fact, some scholars consider the Indian approach to math and science to be the ‘Paninian approach’ [1]. Indian kids traditionally start their exam papers with a small notation above the top of the page as an invocation to Ganesha (e.g. Tamil kids draw a tiny ‘Pillayaar Chuzhi’). This is an ancient practice of a tradition that reveres wisdom and learning, and one that is worth preserving. From Panini to Ramanujan, we see a great line of Ganita scholars beginning their works with an explicit tribute to a divine deity and their sacred cosmology.

Aryabhata (499 CE)

In his Aryabhatiya, the great astronomer Aryabhata who’s statue today adorns UNESCO, begins by paying obeisance to Brahma who is recognized as “the god who is the one and the many” [5]. This is a pertinent point from a Ganita perspective which we shall see later. We learn the following from the commentaries on Aryabhatiya:

  • Bhaskara I : “It is said : ‘(Aryabhata) who exactly followed into the footsteps of (Vyasa) the son of Parasara, the ornament among men, who, by virtue of penance, acquired the knowledge of the subjects beyond the reach of the senses and the poetic eye capable of doing good to others’.” 
  • “Aryabhata’s devotion to Brahma was indeed of a high order. For, in his view, the end of learning was the attainment of the Supreme Brahman and this could be easily achieved by the study of astronomy”.
  • Aryabhata is obtaining new results by navigating through an existing ocean of knowledge: “Having taken a deep plunge into the entire ocean of the Aryabhata-sastra with the boat of intellect, I have acquired this jewel, the Karana-ratna, adorned by the rays of all the planets.

Nilakantha Somayaji (1444-1544 CE)

He was a great Ganita expert and astronomer from the Kerala School (who can be viewed as Aryabhata’s intellectual successors). Nilakantha was also recognized for his mastery of all six darshanas of Hinduism [6]. His great work Tantrasamgraha begins with an invocation to Vishnu. Commentators on this work note that the invocations recognize Vishnu as both the material and the efficient cause of the universe [7].

Srinivasa Ramanujan (1877 – 1920)

srinivasaramanujan

Ramanujan attributed his amazing results to Goddess Namagiri. His statements reveal a firm belief and appreciation of Hinduism and its understanding of ultimate reality. The source of his knowledge was beyond anything cognizable by ordinary senses. Thanks to his biography [8], there’s a lot of material describing, from a western perspective, Ramanujan’s amazing ability, and the following samples provide clues about his methods. Ramanujan is a role model for aspiring young Indian mathematicians and scientists, and this was acknowledged by the Nobel Laureate Astrophysicist, S. Chandrashekar.

  • Ramanujan’s belief in hidden forces and the powers of the supernatural
    was never, at least back in India, something about which he felt the need
    to apologize or keep quiet
  • Ramanujan “had grown up on the Indian gods and the relaxed fluidity of Hindu belief. In him, the natural and the supernatural, Jacobi and Namagiri, Number
    and God, found a common home, stood in something like an easy intimacy.
  • “…the mystical streak in him sat side by side, apparently at perfect ease, with raw mathematical ability may testify to a peculiar flexibility of mind, a special receptivity to loose conceptual linkages and tenuous associations.
  • his openness to supernatural influences hinted at a mind endowed with slippery, flexible, and elastic notions of cause and effect that left him receptive to what those equipped with more purely logical gifts could not see; that found union in what
    others saw as unrelated; that embraced before prematurely dismissing

Each of these independent Indian thinkers freely moves between the transactional and the sacred domains without anxiety. Their work was firmly anchored in Dharma, and serving this integrated unity. The deities invoked include the celestial Hindu trinity and the Devi. Dharma is not the same as religion [10], and this is not theology or missionary zeal working overtime to fudge mathematical models in order to make it compatible with religious scripture, prophecy, and God. Rather, Ganita’s findings arise from a seeker’s quest to learn the truth about the nature of ultimate reality. The Bhagavad Gita (verses 9.4, 3.40-41) recognizes the empirical to be rooted as well as culminating in the transcendental [13]. Ganita is a sacred and valid path to reach the transcendent, and the continuity in the views of four great scholars from different time periods in Indian history drives home this point. Given the importance attached to this sacred source by its foremost practitioners, it is more accurate to view Ganita as the integral science of computing.  Attempts to equate Ganita to a purely pragmatic and secular science or math is inaccurate and reductionist.

The creation stories in the Vedas lend themselves to a rich interpretation that trace out a fundamental Ganita template which was adopted by all these great practitioners. Toward this, we start with an algorithmic interpretation of Prajapati’s efforts to create a stable, self-organized universe [9].

Prajapati’s Algorithm

Prajapati employs an algorithm to create the cosmos. An iteration in this algorithm consists of an experimental trial, followed by an observation of the output data, which triggers a review and validation phase, followed by an adjustment of ‘design parameters’ and re-trial, if necessary. This process converges to Prajapati’s satisfaction within three iterations. However, no attempt is made to prove or claim with absolute certainty that among all possible universes, his is the most perfect and infallible. Since time is cyclical, such universes are dissolved and recreated with no beginning or end. The Rig Veda explicitly recognizes the inherent uncertainty associated with any answer to such questions [10].

  1. The first empirical trial produces a cosmos which is observed to be full of entities too similar in nature and they simply merge into each other, so that there is practically nothing to unite.  This is a homogeneous and ‘over-ordered’ universe where there is nothing left to know, and this system quickly becomes unmanageable. From a statistical perspective, there is little or no variance in this first universe.
  2. Prajapati increases variability in his second try but the output shifts to the other extreme. The world is now way too heterogeneous and there is no commonality between beings to relate to, and to unite. Nothing is certain and can be known, and chaos reigns.
  3. Learning from the first two attempts, Prajapati is able to achieve a good balance in his third version that overcomes prior problems, and the algorithm terminates with a stable universe.

How does Prajapati accomplish this task? In his book ‘Being Different’, Rajiv Malhotra says “Prajapati recognizes that all life should be situated between these opposing excesses of too much identity difference and too much homogeneity. Ultimately, he succeeds in producing just such a universe. He does so through the power of resemblance, known as ‘bandhuta’ or bandhu, which was discussed in Chapter 3. The Vedas abound in attempts at finding connections among the numerous planes of reality. This serves as a cardinal principle of all Vedic thought and moral discourse”.

Every entity created is unique, while also bearing some form of resemblance to each other.  Some resemblances may be more easily spotted, while others may be subtle and identifiable only after considerable effort. These Bandhus are the ‘conceptual linkages and tenuous associations’ revealed to Ramanujan after intense tapasya, and he is able to find “union in what others saw as unrelated” because the cognizable world is mirrored and mapped into the transcendental world, and vice versa via these Bandhus [11]. These strands of resemblances intertwine the elements of the universe into an integral unity, where every individual element’s identity is real but provisional, while always being rooted in the independent whole. There are no separately independent realities for individual elements and the methods of Ganita mirror Prajapati’s algorithm.

Bandhu
"The bandhus represent the laws that hold the universe together (Vishnu), paroksha is the dance of consciousness that is ever changing (Shiva), and Yajna is the process of
 change (Devi)" - Subhash Kak, Pragnya Sutra [PS, 12].

The idea of ‘resemblance’ is fundamental to the acquisition of knowledge that is required to make ‘risky’ and useful predictions about the future with a measure of confidence. This concept can be illustrated using the analogy of a modern business forecasting system. Suppose a company launches a brand-new product in the market and needs to know now how many units it is likely to sell in the next 6-12 months. Since no prior sales data about this product is available, no statistical method cannot be employed to directly calculate this number. To overcome this limitation, the new product A is mapped in terms of its selling attributes to that pre-existing product B which it resembles most. B’s data is borrowed to generate an initial sales forecast for A. Machine learning and AI techniques can be used to learn such recursive patterns, even deep ones, from unstructured data.

However, a machine has its limits. Computer Scientist and Sanskrit scholar Prof. Subhash Kak notes [12] “… knowledge emerges from a familiarization with its inner space and it may be seen to be a consequence of the bandhus (bonds) that exist between the outer and inner worlds. If there were no such bandhu, it would be impossible to make sense of the world. Machines only follow predefined rules and they don’t have bandhus, which is why they cannot be conscious. The bandhus are the ground that make awareness possible“.

Bandhus can be in the form of numbers, biological rhythms, sounds, lights, touch, etc.[11]. Or via Meghadutam? A study of the applications and motivation of ancient Indian geometry reveals the traditional Hindu approach of coexisting in harmony and synchronizing with nature by recognizing certain auspicious and sacred ratios and numbers (e.g. 108).  Two examples are stated below, which also bring to light the continuity and commonality in thought between the Harappan and Vedic time periods. We will discuss this in depth later in our series.

  1. The ratios and measurements used in Harappan architecture at Dholavira (2500 BCE or earlier)
  2. The dimensions and numbers of bricks used in Vedic fire altars.

Two of the three key notions of dharmic cosmology are recursion and paradox [11]. The former, via the principle of resemblance, injects a sense of order and certainty into our view of the transactional world, whereas the latter preserves the mystery and uncertainty about the true nature of ultimate reality. It is convenient in the Ganita context to understand this recursion using the Vedic metaphor of Indra’s net.

Self Organizing Patterns: Vedic Metaphor of Indra’s Net
"The Vedic deity Indra is said to have an infinite net consisting of a jewel in each node, arranged so that every jewel reflects all the other jewels; there is no separate self-existence of any jewel. Each is unique in its reflection of all others. Indra's Net symbolizes a universe with infinite dependencies and relations interwoven among all its members, none of which exists apart from but only in the context of this collective reality."  - Rajiv Malhotra, Indra's Net.

The links in this self-organized network are precisely the Bandhus. Since the ultimate reality is like Indra’s Net, Prajapati’s world allows order and information to emerge from what appears to be nothing but chaos and uncertainty (even soccer matches!). Such an Indra’s Net becomes a limitless source of useful ideas for Ganita. We provide three examples from Mathematics to illustrate this.

  • The ‘Rule of Five’ [14] states that: “There is a 93.75% chance that the median of a population is between the smallest and largest values in any random sample of five from that population.” Just five random samples are enough in nature, with no preconception about its probability distribution, to achieve a significant reduction in uncertainty – from being totally unsure, to knowing a lot about any group’s median behavior. This order has been hiding all along in plain sight.
  • The world around us is full of (approximately) normal distributions or bell curves, allowing a certain statistical order to emerge out of seemingly disorganized groups.
    source: usablestats.com

    Of course, not everything in nature is normally distributed. There are plenty of exceptions [14]. In [15], Lyon tries to understand how such normal distributions come about in nature. He argues that it is not because of the central limit theorem. He uses inference (which Indian logicians recognize as anumana) to understand how these patterns are generated in nature. By using the idea of ‘entropy’ to denote the degree of chaos (or disorder), we learn: “A further fact, which serves to ’explain’ why it is that this ’order generated out of chaos’ often has the appearance of a normal distribution, is that out of all distributions having the same variance the normal has maximum entropy (i.e. the minimum amount of information).” The balance between order and chaos in nature produces approximate bell curves, whose statistical properties can be gainfully employed to better understand this world. Sometimes, this Indra’s Net manifests itself as spectacular visuals.

  • In the brief video below, we can observe fireflies synchronizing. Thousands of fireflies light up at the same instant by simply doing their Dharma of flashing ‘strobes’ and sending out a visual signal, and in turn appropriately responding to incoming signals [16]. This was first noticed by western researchers in the jungles of Thailand. After the first sync-up, they remain synced. Self-organization is quite natural in the Vedic universe, and now we are beginning to see rigorous mathematical proofs reaffirming this reality. Inference and intuition was used by mathematicians in tandem with logical reasoning to understand the process of ‘sync’ and prove that synchronization is guaranteed in nature under certain conditions. Strogatz notes in [16] “The implication is that in a population of fireflies or brain cells, the oscillators have to be similar enough or nobody will synchronize at all.”  A certain balance between order and chaos is required for sync, and evidently, this is not uncommon in nature. After all, the dance of the universe is synced to the dance of Nataraja. Out of these self-organization principles emerge the beautiful equations and results of Ganita.

The Ganita of self-organization shows up prominently in Hinduism and in India. This decentralized ‘sync’ by insects could be quite naturally viewed by Hindus as a firefly Kumbh Mela. Pre-colonial India was largely decentralized. Self-organization reduces transactional costs and is environment friendly. Hinduism’s resilience and even a degree of ‘antifragility’ are due to built-in error-correcting mechanisms and the ability to constructively balance order and chaos [10]. The fidelity of Vedic chants has been orally preserved over several thousand years via embedded  layers of data redundancy that resemble ideas within modern methods of information transmission over a noisy communication channel. In the video below, Manjul Bhargava provides an example of Ganita in Sanskrit Kavya, which embeds an error-correcting code.

Several notoriously hard-to-solve mathematical problems (see example picture below) recognized in computational complexity theory are routinely managed in practice. Problem instances that actually manifest in nature appear to have certain data patterns and organization that allow them to be solved fairly quickly to the level of accuracy required by the practical application.

The Best ‘Bottleneck’ Traveling Salesman Route across USA (source: akira.ruc.dk)

Along with resemblances and patterns in nature comes paradox. Per Subhash Kak [11], “paradox is the recognition that the bandhu must lie outside of rational system, leading to the distinction between the “higher” science of consciousness and the “lower,” rational objective science“.  How does Ganita deal with paradox and uncertainty?

Ganita: At Ease With Uncertainty

A bit beyond perception’s reach

I sometimes believe I see

that Life is two locked boxes, each

containing the other’s key. 

—Piet Hein

(and in the words of Clint Eastwood, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster“).

In the Vedic period, there used to be enigmatic exchanges between scholars, known as Brahmodya, where a riddle about the nature of ultimate reality (Brahman, in Hinduism) was posed. The respondent remained silent if they could not decipher it, or countered with a deeper riddle if the hidden Bandhu was recognized [17]. (An entertaining version of this contest is the silent exchange via hand-gestures between Kalidasa and the scholar-princess Vidyottama). Dharma traditions recognize that our understanding of reality is likely to be incomplete. For example, Rajiv Malhotra notes in [10]: “There is equivalence in the relationship between sunya (emptiness) and purna (completeness or integral wholeness), the paradox being that the void has within it the whole“. With new knowledge and its associated benefits invariably comes uncertainty and ‘side effects’. There is no ‘free lunch’. Consequently, man-made algorithms are not infallible and dharma systems explicitly factor this in.

It is well known that Smritis have to be updated periodically while always serving  the unchanging Shruti.  Similarly, Ganita practitioners come up with increasingly better Siddhantas that progressively improve our understanding of natural phenomena. What is also important to remember is that the Indian approach to any field, including Ganita, is one of shraddha that is grounded in the sacred. We can be transformed by this experience and attain higher levels of consciousness that bring us ever closer to experiencing the ultimate reality.  This view is apparent in Aryabhatiya [5]: “the end of learning was the attainment of the Supreme Brahman and this could be easily achieved by the study of astronomy. In the closing stanza of the Dasagitikasutra, he says: “Knowing this Dasagitikasutra, the motion of the Earth and the planets, on the celestial sphere, one attains the Supreme Brahman after piercing through the orbits of the planets and the stars“.

The Integral versus the Synthetic Approach

We briefly compare two alternative approaches to dealing with paradox and uncertainty:

  1. Integral approach
    • Recognize reality with all its inherent diversity as is, as the ideal, and treat knowledge acquisition as a systematic process of reducing uncertainty.
    • Inference and intuition is useful in gaining new knowledge, and ingenuity is prized in such a tradition. Such knowledge is fallible, and new and improved methods are continually developed to reduce error to an acceptable level. Pragmatism rules, and the layman is familiar with the Ganita required for his/her own profession [2].
    • The validity of a method is demonstrated via Upapattis [1] that are rooted in reality.  From a logic perspective, the validity of knowledge is tied to the specific Pramanas it relies on, which may not be universally acceptable.
  2. Synthetic approach [10, 3]
    • Reject chaos as undesirable and consider ‘perfect order’ to be the ideal, and reality as subservient to this ideal ‘model’.
    • This binary mindset prefers to view reality as a bunch of separately independent systems where knowledge acquisition is preferably beyond doubt and free of empiricism.
    • Every new result is proven conclusively and universally using logic, starting from a minimal number of ‘self-evident’ axioms.

This distinction does not automatically imply that Ganita (example of integral approach) and modern science/math (largely synthetic approach) are in a state of irreconcilable conflict. As Roddam Narasimha notes [24]: “Modern science seems to have acquired, perhaps by fortunate accident, the property that the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna called prapakatva: i.e., it delivers what it promises; it may not be the Truth, but it is honest“. What is undeniable and supported by fact is that by the 16th century CE, Ganita results had already laid the foundations for many crucial developments in modern science and mathematics [3].  Ramanujan is an example of an Indian who practiced the integral approach, and found a way to work constructively with western mathematicians so that his results could benefit the world.

It is interesting to see how Mathematician Hardy and Ramanujan reacted to each other’s approach as noted in [8].

  1. When Hardy asked for proof, we excerpt Ramanujan’s response: “…. I dilate on this simply to convince you that you will not be able to follow my methods of proof if I indicate the lines on which I proceed in a single letter. You may ask how you can accept results based upon wrong premises. What I tell you is this: Verify the results I give and if they agree with your results, got by treading on the groove in which the present day mathematicians move, you should at least grant that there may be some truths in my fundamental basis.
  2. Professor Hardy’s description of Ramanujan’s approach: “It was his insight into algebraic formulae, transformations of infinite series and so forth, that was most amazing. On this side most certainly I have never met his equal, and I can compare him only with Euler or Jacobi. He worked far more than the majority of modern mathematicians, by induction from numerical examples; all his congruence properties of partitions, for example, were discovered in this way. But with his memory, his patience and his power of calculation, he combined a power of generalisation, a feeling for form, a capacity for rapid modification of his hypothesis, that were often really startling, and made him, in his own peculiar field, without a rival in his day.”.  Prof. Hardy was careful not to tamper with Ramanujan’s mysterious ability, which was rooted in Ganita.
  3. On Ramanujan’s approach to the partition problem: “… the uncanny accuracy of their results attested to the power of the approximating technique they had used to get them ..So subtle and inspired were the approximations it permitted that it went beyond approximation to promise exactitude. …. Selberg, in fact, argues that Hardy’s insistence on certain methods of classical analysis actually impeded their efforts; and that lacking faith in Ramanujan’s intuition he discouraged a search for the kind of exact solution Rademacher produced twenty years later.”

Commentators have often termed this integral Indian approach as ‘Paninian’. We try to better understand what they mean by that.

The Real is the Ideal, and the Perfect is its Approximation

If the west has Euclid as the pioneer and exemplar for mathematics, India follows Panini. In [18], Dr. J. J. Bajaj explains this statement by using the commentary of Patanjali on Panini’s work: “In providing this characterisation of the science of grammar Patanjali laid his finger on perhaps the most essential feature of the Indian scientific effort. Science in India seems to start with the assumption that truth resides in the real world with all its diversity and complexity… As Patanjali emphasises, valid utterances are not manufactured by the Linguist, but are already established by the practice in the world. Nobody goes to a linguist asking for valid utterances, the way one goes to a potter asking for pots. Linguist do make generalisations about the language as spoken in the world. But these generalisations are not the truth behind or above the reality. These are not the idealisation according to which reality is to be tailored. On the other hand what is ideal is the real, and some part of the real always escapes our idealisation of it. There are always exceptions. It is the business of the scientist to formulate these generalisations, but also at the same time to be always attuned to the reality, to always to conscious of the exceptional nature of each specific instance. This attitude, as we shall have occasion to see, seems to permeate all Indian science and makes it an exercise quite different from the scientific enterprise of the West.

This discussion tells us that Panini’s is an integral approach rooted in the ultimate reality. On the other hand, the synthetic approach mentioned is popular in the west. Advances in modern science have been attributed to this approach. However, this approach can allow false assumptions to creep if the reality-check step is missing. There is an interesting story about the US Air Force set in the 1950s when they discovered that many of their pilots were losing control of their planes and crashing at an alarming rate.

source: thestar.com

The investigation eventually narrowed down the cause to the design of the cockpit, which was precisely engineered to a precise standard in the 1920s for the average American pilot. The USAF theory was that the average pilot had gotten bigger in the prior three decades and so the cockpit dimensions need to be re-sized upward. More than 4000 pilots were measured across 140 dimensions to compute a new standardized design. During this process, an analyst who was sifting through this data discovered that the total number of pilots who were average or near-average across these dimensions was exactly zero.  The ideal pilot simply did not exist.

A similar survey was conducted a few years earlier to find a lady in Cleveland who would closely match the ideal normal figure (‘Norma’). Among the nearly 4000 contestants, there was not one lady in the survey who matched Norma’s perfect vital statistics. Assuming that reality will conform to a non-existent ideal model is a recipe for disaster. USAF quickly realized that it was far better to design and periodically update designs based on the observed reality by explicitly taking uncertainty into account. This is exactly what the USAF did thereafter and switched their cockpit design philosophy to ‘individual fit’. It was a pragmatic response to an important problem that was jeopardizing pilot safety and costing millions of dollars. From an Indian perspective, the USAF chose the Ganita approach. Every US military branch embraced this idea soon after. A similar revolution is ongoing in healthcare, with allopathic medicine representing the synthetic alternative, and Ayurveda being the integral method. This integral approach to computing produced amazing results such as the decimal place value system and Algebra.

Integral Unity of Indian Place Value System

The Indian decimal place value system that is now used all over the world is startlingly simple and elegant. It arises from the sacred idea of ‘the One that manifests as many’ that exists in all Dharma thought systems (and Aryabhatiya paid obeisance to). Just like Panini was able to encode the infinite possibilities of pre-existing and all future utterances using a small number of rules, the Indian place value system too can represent all previously used and yet-to-be-used numbers in the universe using just a few symbols and rules.  Every digit in an N-digit number is denoted by its symbol that has a provisional reality, and through an established place value, it acquires a manifested form that unites into the whole number. As shown in the picture below,  some two thousand years ago, Rishis explain that the same symbol ‘1’ can realize different values, e.g. in the unit, tens, and hundreds place just as a lady can be a daughter, sister, mother, etc.

decimal pv system analogy to a lady3
source: Module 1 of IIT lecture series [1]
Algebra and Sanskrit

The place value system is essentially algebraic in nature. Bijaganita (Algebra via Arabic Al-Jabr) is a natural extension of this idea that arose independently in India (early algebraic results can be found in the Sulvasutras[1]). Here a single symbol like ‘x’ represents an unmanifest quantity that can potentially take one of many values. It eventually takes a fixed numerical value that is feasible to the equations representing the reality which it is part of. In [10], we find this algebraic concept mirrored in Sanskrit [10]: “When a word with a contextually determined meaning is reduced to only one of its many meanings, it is akin to assigning a specific constant value to an algebraic variable, thereby eliminating its usefulness as a variable.”

These context-sensitive meanings in Sanskrit, and the Contextual and Universal Dharma ethics are other well-known concepts that resemble this idea. For example, the word ‘Lingam’ which means symbol or icon has multiple contextual meanings [10]. The idea of equations and the introduction of a symbolic processing language to manage such equations also existed in India. The Bakshali manuscript provides evidence of this [6]. Aside from the decimal system, there were also the Katapayadi, Bhutasamkhya, and the Aryabhata notation that encoded numerical data in exquisite sacred verse [1]. Here are some bewitching examples.

This Paninian approach naturally motivates the generation of permutations and combinations while are fundamental to the idea of mathematical ‘probability and chance’, and finds application in Sanskrit Kavya [3]. The infinite-series results achieved by Madhava of the Kerala school long before McLaurin/Taylor/Leibniz, etc. also resemble this generating principle. The game of chess (Chaturanga), and snakes and ladders (Moksha Pata, Vaikuntapalli), etc. also have a similar structure and not surprisingly, originated in India. German Sanskritist Paul Thieme noted that a civilization that produced Paninian grammar could easily have produced also the game of chess, which it did [4].  The potential chaos that can arise from permitting multiplicity is ingeniously managed via the guiding principles of Dharma to produce harmonious order. All these discussions raise an obvious question – why are Indians so ‘tuned in’ to this integral approach?

Forest Civilization’s Pattern Seekers and Algorizers

The multiplicity of numbers, cascading permutations, infinitesimals running amok, and the never ending decimals of irrationals seemingly paralyzed the binary mindset at one point in time. On the other hand, this chaotic prospect caused little anxiety among the ancient Indians who were grounded in Dharmic view where such diversity are but natural forms of the One. In general, the practice of Ganita is appealing to those who seek recurring patterns and inter-connections in nature.

India is a forest civilization [10]. A significant portion of the narrative in two of its major works of Itihasa, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, occur in the forest, which is a complex ecosystem where the inter-dependency of its members is Omnipresent.  It is but natural that the Indians are attracted to the infinitely repeating patterns that abound in nature and draw inspiration and inferences from them. On the left is a picture of the tessellations drawn by ancient Indians on rocks [19] several thousands of years ago (possibly upper Paleolithic period. This may remind some of Kolams). On the right is a visualization of the theta function [20] that Ramanujan may have studied while coming up with his equations for the ‘mock theta’ functions that he made famous.

tessellations in ancient Indian rock art theta functions

Based on an intuition and deep contemplation about certain connections and resemblances observed in nature, a Ganita expert comes up with a sequence of calculations. Scientist Roddam Narasimha describes this Indian approach [24] as that of pattern seekers and algorisers and that the Indian astronomer (like Aryabhata) can “discern patterns in planetary motion and make computations, and proceeds to devise clever algorithms to carry out such calculations“. He describes the Indian approach via the following sequence: observation →  algorithm → validated conclusion. Several Sanskrit keywords are used within this approach, for which no exact English equivalent word exists. We briefly summarize these keywords based on the discussion in [6].

Key Ganita Non-Translatables

Pramana – correct cognition, a means of acquiring valid knowledge. Pratyaksha and Anumana are two important Pramanas in Ganita.

Anumana – inference, the key reasoning component in Indian logic. This is not the same as deduction, but is a derived conclusion from the observation of patterns.

Pariksha – careful comprehensive observation. e.g. yantra pariksha:  observation using instruments. An extension of Pratyaksha (direct observation and perception), the oldest and most universal Pramana among darshanas.

Drg-Ganita –  ‘seeing and computing’. This is an important method introduced by Parameshwara of the Kerala school, which looks for agreement between what was computed and what is observed.

Siddhanta – a validated conclusion, or a validated algorithmic package. What happens when there is a clash between Siddhantas? In [6], “Nilakantha recommends that under such  conditions more observations need to be taken with instruments and compared with calculation, and that the numerical parameters should be changed (or the algorithms tuned) so as to improve agreement. In other words a new siddhanta has to be created. Siddhantas are thus human creations, and the best at any time may not remain
so for long—it is valid only for some finite periods of time.”

Yukti – skilful and ingenious practice. Ganita gives the pride of place to Yukti, sometimes overruling the primacy of the Agamas. Verse (2.5) from the Bhagavad Gita says “yogah: karmasu kausalam“, yoga is skill in action [6].  It appears that the Ganita tradition had little time for ‘pure’ theorists who lacked the Yukti or intent to deliver realizable results.

Anveshana – ‘wild goose chase’. In general usage, this word has a positive connotation but in the context of Ganita it represents a futile exploration.

Upapatti – a rigorous validation of results to the satisfaction of peer experts. Yukti is employed to constructively demonstrate how a result can be correctly reproduced by anyone else. This is not the same as the synthetic notion of abstract proof [1]. An important book in this regard is the Ganita Yukti Bhasa of Jyeshtadeva hailing from the Kerala school. It is a myth that Indian mathematicians provided no proof of their results. One has to read the accompanying commentaries on the results stated in Sutra form in order to understand all aspects of a Ganita result, including the validation step. The tradition of providing Upapattis is an old and well established one [22].

We conclude this introductory post by excerpting some passages from an essay on Mathematics by Henry Poincaré. In this essay, we get to read his independent views on the nature of reality. He also provides a balanced discussion of the pros and cons of different approaches that can be employed to generate new results. It is worth comparing his views with the ancient Indian perspective. This discussion also sets the stage for the next blog in this series.

Poincaré on ‘what is reality?’

We excerpt a couple of paragraphs from a 1905 essay [21] by the great French mathematician Henri Poincaré. From a Dharma and Ganita perspective, Poincare alludes to the integral unity of reality rather than a synthetic ‘artificial assemblage’. He also talks about the need for a ‘direct sense’ of the internal unity of a piece of reasoning in order to possess the ‘entire reality’. He also uses the principle of resemblance to explain his ideas.

The physiologists tell us that organisms are formed of cells; the chemists add that cells themselves are formed of atoms. Does this mean that these atoms or these cells constitute reality, or rather the sole reality? The way in which these cells are arranged and from which results the unity of the individual, is not it also a reality much more interesting than that of the isolated elements…?

Well, there is something analogous to this in mathematics. The logician cuts up, so to speak, each demonstration into a very great number of elementary operations; when we have examined these operations one after the other and ascertained that each is correct, are we to think we have grasped the real meaning of the demonstration? …. Evidently not; we shall not yet possess the entire reality; that I know not what which makes the unity of the demonstration will completely elude us.

“…often a very uncommon penetration is necessary for their discovery. The analysts, not to let these hidden analogies escape them, that is, in order to be inventors, must, without the aid of the senses and imagination, have a direct sense of what constitutes the unity of a piece of reasoning, of what makes, so to speak, its soul and inmost life. When one talked with M Hermite, he never evoked a sensuous image, and yet you soon perceived that the most abstract entities were for him like living beings. He did not see them, but he perceived that they are not an artificial assemblage, and that they have some principle of internal unity.


What we don’t know about India’s Ganita heritage is much more than what we currently know. Only a minuscule fraction of primary source texts of Ganita have been studied and interpreted so far. We have to thank researchers like the late K. V. Sarma for their tireless work in this regard.

"Our youth are hungry for a sensible knowledge of our past, but are denied an opportunity to acquire it by a marvellous educational system that shuns history in science curricula, and by the paucity of attractive but reliable accounts of the fascinating history of Indic ideas. Our academies, universities, museums and other institutions need to make such a project a national mission. Anything less would be irrational blindness to a unique legacy." - Roddam Narasimha [23].
Acknowledgment: I thank the ICP editor and bloggers for their constructive feedback and corrections.
* Indic epistemology traditionally places Ganita under Jyotisha. The original quote in Vedanga Jyotisha refers to Jyotisha in its enlarged meaning, hence the popular direct translation today of that word as referring to 'Math', used above as Ganita.

References
  1. Indian Mathematics: An Overview, Video Lecture by M. D. Srinivas.
  2. Mathematics Education in India: Status and Outlook. Editors: R. Ramanujam, K. Subramaniam. Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR. 2012.
  3. Cultural Foundations of Mathematics: The Nature of Mathematical Proof and the Transmission of the Calculus from India to Europe in the 16th c. CE., C. K. Raju, Pearson India. 2009.
  4. Vilasamanimanjari: a 19th century chess manual in Sanskrit. Shrinivas Tilak. 2011.
  5. Aryabhatiya of Aryabhata. Critically edited with Introduction, English Translation. By
    Kripa Shankar Shukla, in collaboration with K. V. Sarma. 1976.
  6. Epistemology and Language in Indian Astronomy and Mathematics. Roddam Narasimha. Journal of Indian Philosophy (2007).
  7. Tantrasangraha of Nilakantha Somayaji (Culture and History of Mathematics) Bilingual Edition. by K. Ramasubramanian and M. S. Sriram. Hindustan Book Agency. 2011.
  8. The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan. Robert Kanigel. Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, NY. 1991.
  9. Reflections on Resemblance, Ritual, and Religion. B. K. Smith. Oxford University Press, New York. 1989.
  10. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011.
  11. Art and Cosmology in India. Subhash Kak. Patanjali Lecture given at Center for Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts, 2006.
  12. The Pragnya Sutra: Aphorisms of Intuition. Subhash Kak. Baton Rouge, 2006.
  13. Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity. Rajiv Malhotra. Harper Collins. 2011.
  14. How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. 3rd Edition. Douglas W. Hubbard. Wiley. 2014.
  15. Why are Normal Distributions Normal? Aidan Lyon. British Journal of the Philosophy of Science. 2013.
  16. Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life. Steven H. Strogatz,Hachette Books. 2012.
  17. Abhinavagupta’s Conception of Humor, svabhinava.org.  Sunthar Visuvalingam.
  18. The Indian Tradition in Science and Technology: An Overview. J. J. Bajaj. PPST Bulletin. www.samanvaya.com.
  19. Computing Science in Ancient India. T. R. N. Rao and Subhash Kak. Center for Advanced Computer Studies. University of SW Louisiana. 1998.
  20. Ramanujan’s Mock Modular Forms: Indian Mathematician’s Dream Conjecture Finally Proven. Huffington Post Science 2012.
  21. Intuition and Logic in Mathematics. English Translation of Essay by Henri Poincaré. 1905.
  22. Ganita Yukti Bhasa: Rationales in Mathematical Astronomy of Jyeshtadeva. Vol 1. Malalayalam text critically edited with English translation by K. V. Sarma. 2008
  23. The ‘historic’ storm at the Mumbai Science Congress. Roddam Narasimha. Guest Editorial, Current Science, Vol 108 (4), 2015.
  24. Some thoughts on the Indian half of Needham question: Axioms, models and algorithms. Roddam Narasimha. 2002.
  25. Subbarayappa, B.V. , Indian astronomy: a historical perspective. In: Biswas, Mallik, Vishveshwara (eds.), “Cosmic Perspectives”, Cambridge University.1989.

Personalities: Srinivasa Ramanujan

The following Post was composed collaboratively by N.R.I.pathi & Shivoham


srinivasaramanujan

With the occasion of his Vardanthi last week, and the premiere of his new international movie this week, we inaugurate our comprehensive Series on Indic Personalities with self-taught genius, devout Shakti bhakta, and quite possibly India’s most brilliant mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.

But the story of this great figure of Indic Civilization is one that is as touched by spirituality and tragedy as it is hard mathematics. In his brief lifetime, he would leave an imprint on Modern Maths that both the Academic and Cinematic worlds are only beginning to unravel.

Background

Born in Erode to a poor Tamil brahmin family, Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar spent his early years in what is now Tamil Nadu. His father was an accountant in Kumbakonam to a cloth merchant. Nevertheless, the family would face financial difficulties for long periods.

He studied in a “Pial” school, which was the traditional institution for boys of his background. The young lad was noted for being quiet, but frequently asking about the distances between stars [1] (much like ancient Indian mathematicians once did). Despite growing up in trying poverty, the precocious boy would develop an impressive mathematical faculty in relative isolation and with focused self-study. “He had a prodigious memory, and at school he would entertain his friends by reciting the various declensions of Sanskrit roots, and by repeating the value of the constant ‘pi’ to any number of decimal places.” [7]

But that was not all. Innate ability aside, it was an unmatched drive and focused concentration as an autodidact that would forge his name in the annals of history.

Srinivasa Ramanujan displayed advanced mathematical ability since age 11 after reading a book on advanced trigonometry written by S. L. Loney, lent by two college students, who were lodgers at his home, which he mastered by age 13 and discovered sophisticated mathematical theorems on his own. [5]

He used an introductory book to study Trigonometry and even basic Calculus even before his teen years. Once in his teens, he would master 18th and 19th century mathematics with another book. G.S. Carr’s work, “A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics”, is credited with providing him with exposure to modern Mathematical methods, in tandem with his existing foundation. Ramanujan mastered it all on his own. If ever there were proof that our education does not end with school work, it is this.

A brilliant student, he received various awards and certificates from his early teens onward.  He would later go on to Government College in Kumbakonam but famously did not succeed in earning his B.A. in Maths. This was later repeated at another Chennai College. Though he scored hundred percent marks in Maths, he failed in his F.A., known as First Intermediate Examination in Arts.

Ramanujan “really scored a very high percentage of marks in mathematics. His failure was due to poor marks in the other subjects. This is the true story.” [6] In fact, according the acclaimed biography “The Man who Knew Infinity”, this uncontested genius and intellectual giant appeared for his exams four times and was unsuccessful each time!  He lost his scholarship, and failed out of college. Compare that to today where students are committing suicide even after getting into college…

He finished a three hour maths exam in thirty minutes, but due to his lack of interest in other subjects, was unable to perform on the others.[6] What gave him the strength to go on and endure?

He would later marry Kumari Janaki at the age of 22, and barely subsist by tutoring other students. To support his family, he obtained a job at the Madras Port Trust Office. A local mathematician named S.N. Aiyar encouraged him to correspond with Western Mathematicians; Ramanujan eventually clicked with one an entered into a friendship with G.H.Hardy of Cambridge. A letter with 120 Theorems was what secured the attention of this academic from Trinity College. Invited to study there, Ramanujan was initially reluctant, as his family resisted. It was here that the one of many spiritual experiences would intervene in the course of his magnificent life.

Eventually booking a ticket to England in 1914, Ramanujan would disembark from his ship only to find himself dogged by health problems, which would claim his life years later. Long thought to have been Tuberculosis, exacerbated by the dreary British climate, his health problems were a mystery then, though the present consensus is that a parasitic liver ailment was the actual cause. Unfortunately, this curable disease was not properly identified by doctors at that time, and hepatic amoebiasis would periodically assert itself when minor illnesses would give it cause. Ramanujan would heroically carry on his research both in collaboration with Hardy and on his own. In the process, he would earn an A.B. from Cambridge and be inducted in the Royal Society. Health (and dietary) problems, nevertheless, proved too much. He would return to India in 1917.

In a terrible loss to not only the Indic world but the mathematic as well, Sri Ramanujan passed away in 1920, only in his early thirties. One can only imagine how much more cosmic the contribution of this meteoric mathematician would have been had he lived a natural lifespan.

Spirituality

All sources, even mathematic academics, recognise that Srinivasa Ramanujan credited his remarkable work to the Goddess Namadevi, an incarnation of the Mahalakshmi aspect of Shakti. Particularly in an era where scholarship is intensely ego-driven, to the point of a new law being developed, Ramanujan’s lack of ahankar and respect for the divine is refreshing. Although critiqued by outsiders as “unrigorous” due to lack of “formal training”, Ramanujan is emblematic of a different sort of tradition that recognises not only the value of discipline and training, but realises that there is a significant space for ’embodied knowledge’ as well.

Ramanujan was deeply spiritual and credited his mathematical ability to his family goddess, Mahalakshmi of Namakkal. He apparently claimed to dream of blood drops that symbolised her male consort, Narasimha, after which he would receive visions of scrolls of complex mathematical content unfolding before his eyes. [5]
G.H.Hardy’s own book attested to the importance of religion in Ramanujan’s life. Aside from his own birth being credited to his family’s prayers to Goddess Namakkal, the man himself was “Fond of the Puranas” and he “used to attend popular lectures on the Great Epics the Ramayana and [M]ahabharata. He believed in the existence of a Supreme Being and in the attainment of Godhood by men by proper methods of service and realisation of oneness with the Deity. He had settle convictions about the problem of life and after, and even the certain approach of death did not unsettle his faculties or spirits. In manners he was very simple and had absolutely no conceit.”  There may be something to the Great Tradition, after all.

Achievements

  • Auto-didact par excellence and Self-taught Mathematics genius who produced 3 notebooks of brilliant theorems and conceptual analyses.
  • The 1st notebook has 351 pages, in 16 chapters.
    The 2nd notebook is a revised enlargement of the 1st with 256 pages, in 21 chapters.
    The 3rd notebook has only 33 pages. [2]
  • Published more than 30 individual research papers in three years. Collaborated on several others with G.H.Hardy.
  • The most notable collaboration was written on the partial function, which counts the number of ways a natural number can be reduced to smaller parts. This is now called the Circle Method.[7]
  • Another collaboration resulted in the Normal Order Method. This paper gave birth to an entirely new branch of Mathematics called Probablistic Number Theory. [7]
  • Wrote “a paper that would connect the computations of the digits of ‘pi’ to modular forms, a theory developed largely in the 20th century. “[3]
  • Accordingly to Academics Murty & Murty, “the paper that really changed the course of 20th century mathematics was the one written by Ramanujan in 1916, modestly titled “On certain arithmetical functions.” In this paper, Ramanujan investigated the properties of Fourier coefficients of modular forms. At that time the theory of modular forms was not even developed. However, Ramanujan enunciated three fundamental conjectures that served as a guiding force for the development of the theory. “[7]
  • A number of Theorists would go on to win Fields Medals (the “Math Nobel”) studying concepts that stemmed from Ramanujan’s work. Others would make a career out of teasing out numerous insights from his papers that would have implications for areas of study such as Physics.

According to an article at the Indian Mathematical Society:

So long as our planet continues to exist in the Universe, and so long as civilization exists on our planet, Ramanujan will be remembered because of the outstanding research contributions made by him to Number Theory and Analysis, because his work has kept first rate mathematicians busy till this date, because his work has had a tremendous influence on modern mathematics and has opened up new vistas for research, but also because he was able to do so without any formal training, without any means of support, and more so because he continued to produce work of the highest order even in the face of death.

Maths Anecdote

We see that many Indians supported SR in India. He did not go to England because he was “let down” etc, but possibly because his work could be shared with a wider audience and many could benefit. He knew he was doing a lot of new stuff. He also received support from Indians during his stay.

Here is an interesting math anecdote from the “Man Who Knew Infinity Book” . [9] This is a challenging combinatorial optimization problem known as ‘classroom scheduling’ since there are zillions of different combinations possible, and it has to also satisfy a variety of complicating constraints and objectives (see bolded point below). Universities solve such problems today using specialised techniques and algorithms, and SR was given this task when he was around 14 yrs old. He wasn’t just solving cutting-edge math problems for journals that had future value, but also complicated real-life resource-allocation problems that were important to the local community and had immediate value:

“Occasionally, his powers were put to good use. Some twelve hundred students attended the school and each had to be assigned to classrooms, and to the school’s three dozen or so teachers, while satisfying any special circumstances peculiar to particular students. At Town High, the senior math teacher, Ganapathi Subbier, was regularly shackled with the maddening job—and he would give it to Ramanujan.” [9]

The goal was to make sure that the students and teachers both show up in the right place and at right time. Headmaster, R. Viswanathan, gives the number of students in the school at about one thousand. N. Govindaraja Iyengar, quoted in P. K. Srinivasan, puts the figure at fifteen hundred. Ramanujan deserved higher than the maximum possible marks. [10]

Resources on Ramanujan’s Work

Legacy

In a tragedy worthy of Natya itself, there is something about the number of years Srinivasa Ramanujan spent on this Earth. There is something to this number 32. Not only did this bright luminary pass away at that young age, but so too did  Adi Sankaracharya himself.  The communion with the Divine by these giant figures of Indic Civilization is an oft-recognised, but quickly discounted, aspect in an age marked by materialism and atheism. But perhaps there is in fact something to that and them, after all.

Both were undoubtedly astonishing intellects, who attained great intellectual achievement, but rather than pontificate with bloated ego, they humbly credited their accomplishment to the grace of something greater than themselves. They wielded this humility to make the most of their brief lives. And in that, whether we are blessed with mathematical or analytical, linguistic or strategic, or the highest of them all, spiritual, intelligence, these two figures who lived to thirty two are an example to us all.

Cinema

With the release of much advertised and much acclaimed movie The Man who Knew Infinity, starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons (as G.H.Hardy), interest in Ramanujan is higher than ever before. Such artistic endeavours from abroad surely should receive appropriate support. At the same time, we must remember efforts that have already attempted to celebrate his life in the native idiom. There is of course the 2014 Tamil-English movie called Ramanujan, directed by Gnana Rajasekharan. Previous efforts to honour in celluloid the legacy of this legend can be found in such movies as the Matt Damon movie Good Will Hunting and countless documentaries. There is even an app that pays tribute to him!

Yet his legacy was not merely mathematical, cinematic, or spiritual, it was also cultural. At a time when India and Indic Civilization was at its lowest depth, when questions of not only competence but innate capability were popping up (or propped up…), Ramanujan inspired countless Indians at home and abroad, including no less than Nobel Prize-winner Subramanyan Chandrasekhar. [7] He proved a pivotal Personality at a time when India was just beginning to rediscover itself. His adopted son and family by this lineage carry his torch on today.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Ramanujan’s life and legacy remain as much an enigma as his notebooks. How could a man without “rigorous” and “classical training” manage to reach the Kailasan summits of the field of Mathematics? How could a man who lived so brief a life manage to make such an enormous impact that gifted academics continue to parse over his handwriting to this day? How can a tradition that mixes the sacred with the “secular”, and philosophical speculation with empirical fact, be credited with producing such a genius?

All these, and many more such questions best left to the pure theory professionals, will be answered in the days and years to come. But surely, there must be something worth learning about where the man came from and how he was taught, to determine why he accomplished what he did. Genius quite possibly is in the genes. But achievement, accomplishment, and academic legacy transcend even the genetic. Sometimes, there is something to not only the scholarly tradition, but to the sacred as well.

There is also a lesson for our suicide-prone, over-emotional and over-exam’ed students: even if you fail out of school, it is no reason to end your efforts or your life.

Long after the humiliation of failing is forgotten, your true potential may be revealed in a way that marks and entrance exams and placements never will. Perhaps, in a way, that is Ramanujan’s greatest legacy of all.

His work has had a fundamental role in the development of 20th century mathematics and his final writings are serving as an inspiration for the mathematics of this century [7]

References:

  1. Hardy, G.H., P.V. Seshu Aiyar et al. Collected Papers of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Providence, R.I.: Chelsea Publ. 2000
  2. “Srinivasa Ramanujan”.Indian Mathematical Society. University of Pune.http://www.indianmathsociety.org.in/sramanujan.htm
  3. “Srinivasa Ramanujan: Life and Mathematics”. University of Vienna. http://www.mat.univie.ac.at/~kratt/vortrag/ramanuja.pdf
  4. “An Overview of Ramanujan’s Workbooks”. University of Illinois. http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~berndt/articles/aachen.pdf
  5. “Remembering Mathematical Genius Srinivasa Ramanujan”. Mid-Day. http://www.mid-day.com/articles/remembering-mathematical-genius-srinivasa-ramanujan/16792165
  6. “Did Ramanujan Fail in Math?”. The Hindu. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/did-srinivasa-ramanujan-fail-in-math/article6254934.ece
  7. “The Legacy of Srinivasa Ramanujan”. The Hindu. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/the-legacy-of-srinivasa-ramanujan/article2746988.ece
  8. Murty & Murty. The Mathematical Legacy of Srinivasa Ramanujan. New York: Springer. 2013
  9. Kanigel, Robert. The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1991
  10. Srinivasan, P. K. An introduction to Creativity of Ramanujan. AMTS.1987.pg 121
*Special Acknowledgement to Shivoham for his time and intellectual contribution to this article,despite other obligations,and for making it a more "rigorous" endeavour than it otherwise would have been.