The Secret Of Enlightenment: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Dear Friends:

After you have practiced meditation for many years, at some point the questions may arise:

1. What is Enlightenment?

2. How does one get Enlightened?

3. What is the secret of Enlightenment?

Although the word Enlightenment has much glamor associated with it, it is a very simple thing. Enlightenment means to simply rest in one’s own authentic and original nature which is one’s own Self. This is the state of quiet peace whose very nature is Awareness and Ahimsa.

One becomes Enlightened by hearing that there is such a state of peace and beauty, and then by engaging in meditation and inquiring into one’s own nature by going within.

For ripe seekers, the secret of Enlightenment is told and it is this.

Be easy and natural in life.

Do your work and play your role in the world as best as you can.

Do not be much attached to success or failure.

Do not mind the mind but instead focus on the quality of awareness that permeates it.

Finally, as the awareness of awareness becomes strong, let the mind glide into the Heart and be free.

Introduction To Advaita Vedanta: By Sri S.N. Sastri

Introduction to Advaita Vedanta

The term ‘Vedanta’ stands for the Upanishads as a whole, which form part of the Vedas. It would therefore be appropriate to give a general account of the Vedas before going on to deal with Vedanta.

In the Indian tradition, philosophy is termed ‘darsana’, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘seeing’ or ‘experiencing’. This indicates that the aim of philosophy in India is direct experience of the ultimate Reality and not mere intellectual speculation as in Western philosophy.

The Indian philosophical systems are classified into two broad categories known as ‘aastika darsanas’ and ‘naastika darsanas’. There are no exact equivalents to these terms in English, though the terms ‘orthodox’ and ‘unorthodox’ are sometimes used. It would be wholly misleading to use the terms ‘theistic’ and ‘atheistic’ for these categories.

The term ‘aastika’ has been defined as referring to a person who, or a system which, accepts, (1) the authority of the Vedas, (2) the doctrine of rebirth and (3) the existence of other ‘lokas’ or spheres of experience. In the category of aastika darsanas fall those systems which accept the authority of the Vedas. These are the six systems known as Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purvamimamsa and Uttaramimamsa (or Vedanta). Even among these six, it is only the last two that base themselves directly on the Vedas and accept nothing that goes against them. The other four systems are based more on independent grounds of logic and reasoning, but they too are not opposed to the Vedas.

In the category of naastika darsanas fall the four schools of Buddhism, Jainism and the Carvaka (or atheistic) school, which do not accept the authority of the Vedas. These also make up a total of six.

The Vedas

All the six aastika darsanas regard the Vedas as the record of the divine truths revealed to the sages (Rishis or seers) in their supra-normal consciousness. The sages are not the authors of the Vedas. They are known as ‘seers’ of the Vedic mantras.

The traditional view is that the Vedas are eternal. The word ‘Veda’ means primarily ‘knowledge’ and secondarily the books in which that knowledge is recorded. This is not knowledge of the external world, but the knowledge of the supreme Truth which cannot be attained by any effort of the human mind.

It has been categorically declared by our ancient sages that the Vedas have no validity in matters which fall within the domain of other valid means of knowledge such as perception and inference. Sri Sankara says in his Bhashya on the Bhagavadgita, ch.18, verse 66:

The validity of the Vedas holds good only with regard to matters which cannot be known through such other valid means of knowledge as direct perception, etc., because the validity of the Vedas lies in revealing what is beyond direct perception. Even a hundred Vedic statements cannot become valid if they say that fire is cold or non-luminous. If a Vedic text says that fire is cold or non-luminous, one should assume that the intended meaning of the text is different, for otherwise its validity cannot be maintained. One should not interpret it in such a way as to contradict some other valid means of knowledge.

Because of this clear demarcation of the spheres of validity of the Vedas on the one hand and the other means of knowledge relied on by science on the other, no conflict between science and the Vedas can arise, similar to those which arose between the Church and the discoveries of scientists like Copernicus and Galileo in Europe. It is this knowledge contained in the Vedas that is considered to be eternal. Just as the law of gravity existed and operated even before it was discovered by Newton, the knowledge contained in the Vedas existed even before it became known to the sages.

The Vedas are considered to be ‘apaurusheya’, i.e., they are not human compositions. Even God is not the author of the Vedas. The eternal knowledge contained in the Vedas is only revealed by God to the sages in each cycle of creation. The Vedas are ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ by the sages and recorded by them or their disciples for the benefit of posterity. The Vedas are therefore termed sruti, or ‘what is heard’. As distinguished from these are the smritis, which are all human compositions, based on the srutis.

The Itihasas and Puranas come under the category of smriti. According to Manu, the greatest lawgiver of India, the smritis should be considered as an elaboration of the Vedas. However, it is an inviolable rule that, where there is a difference between the sruti and the smriti on any matter, the sruti has to be upheld and the smriti should be interpreted in conformity with it. The truths enshrined in the Vedas have been actually experienced again and again by successive generations of great souls. The experiences of great saints like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Bhagavan Ramana in recent times bear testimony to the authenticity of all that is stated in the Upanishads.

The Vedas are four in number– Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. Each Veda consists of three parts– the karma-kanda, the upasana-kanda and the jnana-kanda. The karma-kanda is divided into samhitas and brahmanas. The samhitas are collections of mantras, or hymns in verse, most of which are praises or prayers addressed to various gods such as Indra, Varuna and Agni. They are chanted during the performance of sacrifices. The brahmanas are mostly in prose and contain detailed descriptions of sacrifices and instructions for the performance of sacrificial rites. The upasana-kanda deals with various meditations. The jnana-kanda consists of the Upanishads and this is what is denoted by the term ‘Vedanta’.

These three kandas are, however, not mutually exclusive compartments. The highest philosophical truths, similar to those expounded in the Upanishads, are found also in the samhita and brahmana portions which deal mainly with Vedic rituals. It is further noteworthy that the Isavasyopanishad appears in the samhita portion of the Sukla Yajurveda, the Brihadaranyakopanishad forms the concluding portion of the Satapathabrahmana of the Sukla Yajurveda, the Chandogyopanishad constitutes eight chapters of the Chandogyabrahmana of Samaveda and the Kenopanishad forms the ninth chapter of the Talavakarabrahmana of Samaveda. All these form part of jnanakanda, in spite of their being located right inside the samhitas or brahmanas. The term ‘Vedanta’ should therefore be understood to mean the ultimate conclusion or the highest philosophy of the Vedas and not the end portion of the Vedas.

The Triple Texts

The source books of Vedanta are the triple texts, Prasthanatraya, namely, the Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and the Brahmasutras.

The Upanishads

The word ‘Upanishad’ is derived by adding the prefixes ‘upa’ (near) and ni’ (with certainty) to the verbal root ‘sad’ meaning ‘ to destroy, to go to and to loosen’. By the word ‘Upanishad’ is meant the knowledge that destroys the seeds of worldly existence such as ignorance in the case of those seekers of liberation who, after cultivating detachment towards all enjoyments, approach (upa, sad) this knowledge and then deliberate on it with steadiness and certainty (ni).

Though this knowledge is the primary meaning of the word, it is used also to denote the book that contains this knowledge, in a secondary sense. This knowledge is known as ‘Brahmavidya’. The theme of all the Upanishads is Brahman, which is identical with the individual self. This subject is dealt with in detail later on.

It is not known with any certainty how many Upanishads existed originally, but 108 are now available to us. There are commentaries, known as ‘bhashya’ by Sri Sankara on eleven of these, namely, Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka and Nrsimhatapani upanishads. There is also a commentary on Svetasvatara upanishad, but there is difference of opinion among modern scholars about its authorship, though tradition attributes it to Sri Sankara.

The Bhagavadgita

This is the second of the triple texts. It forms part of the great epic Mahabharata and is given the same authority as the upanishads. As is well known, the Bhagavadgita contains the teachings of Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukshetra. Sri Sankara has described it as the essence of the Vedas.

The Brahmasutras

This work is attributed to sage Veda-Vyasa. It consists of short aphorisms, called sutras. There are in all 555 aphorisms. A total of 192 topics, known as adhikaranas are dealt with in these aphorisms. The purpose of these aphorisms is to explain the real import of various terms and statements in the upanishads and to reconcile apparent contradictions. Sri Sankara has explained the meanings of these aphorisms from the Advaitic point of view in his commentaries, known as ‘Bhashya’.

The Essence of Advaita Vedanta

The philosophy of Advaita Vedanta has attracted intellectuals from all parts of the world because of the fact that it adheres to the strict rules of logic and does not demand blind faith or unquestioning acceptance. The student of Vedanta is asked to examine and think for himself before accepting the teachings of the Guru. But he must start with an open mind, a genuine desire to understand and an attitude of respect towards the scriptures.

We find in the upanishads that the student frankly puts his doubts and objections to the Guru and the Guru very patiently clarifies his doubts and answers his objections. The upanishads are not for the intellectually indolent. There is a very important place for reason in Vedanta. The fundamental principle of Vedanta is that the final testimony of truth is actual spiritual experience. This makes it a very scientific system and therefore acceptable to intellectuals of the present day who swear by reason and the scientific method.

Dr. T.M.P.Mahadevan, the great Vedantic scholar, says in his book ‘Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence’– “We believe that Advaita is not a sectarian doctrine. It is the culmination of all doctrines, the crown of all views. Though other views may imagine themselves to be opposed to Advaita, Advaita is opposed to none.

As Gaudapada, a pre-Sankara teacher of Advaita, says, Advaita has no quarrel with any system of philosophy. While the pluralistic world-views may be in conflict with one another, Advaita is not opposed to any of them. It recognises the measure of truth that there is in each of them; but only, that truth is not the whole. Hostility arises out of partial vision. When the whole truth is realised, there can be no hostility. (Mandukya Karika, III. 17 & 18; IV. 5)”.

The essence of Advaita has been stated by Sri Sankara in half a verse thus:– Brahman is the only Reality, the universe has only apparent reality, and the individual self is non-different from Brahman.

Brahman is the only Reality. ‘Reality’ is defined as that which does not undergo any change at any time. By this test, Brahman, which is absolutely changeless and eternal, is alone real. The world keeps on changing all the time and so it cannot be considered as real. At the same time, we cannot dismiss it as unreal, because it is actually experienced by us.

The example of a rope being mistaken for a snake in dim light is used to explain this. The snake so seen produces the same reaction, such as fear and trembling of the limbs, as a real snake would. It cannot therefore be said to be totally unreal. At the same time, on examination with the help of a lamp it is found that the snake never existed and that the rope alone was there all the time.

The snake cannot be described as both real and unreal, because these two contradictory qualities cannot exist in the same substance. It must therefore be said that the snake is neither real nor unreal. Such an object is described as ‘mithya’. Just as the snake appears because of ignorance of the fact that there is only a rope, this world appears to exist because of our ignorance of Brahman. Thus the world is also neither real nor unreal; it is also ‘mithya’. Just as the snake is superimposed on the rope, the world is superimposed on Brahman.

Our ignorance of Brahman is what is called avidya or ajnaana or nescience. This ignorance not only makes us ignorant of Brahman, but it projects the world as a reality. The world has no reality apart from Brahman, just as the illusory snake has no reality apart from the rope. When the knowledge of Brahman arises, the world is seen as a mere appearance of Brahman. The illusory snake arose from the rope, was sustained by the rope and ultimately merged into the rope. Similarly, the world arises from Brahman, is sustained by Brahman and merges into Brahman on the attainment of knowledge.

Another example is also given to explain this. Ornaments of different sizes and shapes are made out of one gold bar. Their appearance and the use for which they are meant vary, but the fact that they are all really nothing but gold, in spite of their different appearances and uses, cannot be denied. The appearance may change, a bangle may be converted into rings, but the gold always remains as gold. When we begin to look upon the bangles, rings, etc., as nothing but gold in essence, the differences between bangle and ring, ring and chain, etc., cease to count though they continue to retain their different shapes.

Similarly, on the dawn of the knowledge of Brahman (which is the same as the Self), though the different forms continue to be seen by the Jnaani, the realised soul, he sees them all only as appearances of the one Brahman. Thus the perception of difference between one person and another, or one thing and another, and the consequences of such perception, such as looking upon some as favourable and others as the opposite, and the consequent efforts to retain or get what is favourable and to get rid of or avoid what is not favourable, come to an end. This is the state of liberation even while living, which is known as Jivanmukti.

Every individual identifies himself with the physical body, the sense organs and the mind. When a person describes himself as stout or lean or fair-complexioned or dark, he is looking upon himself as the physical body to which these characteristics belong. When he says ‘I see’, ‘I hear’, ‘I smell’ and so on, he is identifying himself with the organs of sense which perform these functions. When he says ‘I am happy’ or ‘I am unhappy’, he is identifying himself with his mind. The Upanishads declare that all these identifications are wrong and that the human being is in reality not the body or the sense-organs or the mind, but Brahman, which is eternal, changeless and not affected by anything that happens to the body-mind complex.

It is Brahman that appears as the jiva or individual because of identification with the body-mind complex. This body-mind complex, which makes the infinite, all-pervading Brahman appear as an individual limited to a particular body-mind complex, is known as the limiting adjunct or upadhi of Brahman. This wrong identification, which is called bondage, is due to our ignorance of our real nature. This ignorance is what is called avidya or nescience. When this ignorance is eradicated, the person remains established in his essence as the Self or Brahman-Atman. This is liberation.

Final Comments

Thus liberation is not the attainment of some new state in some other world after the end of the present life. It is only the realisation, in this life itself, of what one has always been, namely Brahman, by the removal of the wrong notion that one is the body-mind complex. The illusory snake never existed. What existed even when the snake was seen was only the rope.

Similarly, bondage has no real existence at all. Even when we are ignorant of Brahman and think of ourselves as limited by the body, we are really none other than the infinite Brahman. Liberation is thus only the removal of the wrong identification with the body, mind and senses. The attainment of the state of liberation-in-life or Jivanmukti is the ultimate goal of human life according to the upanishads.

Three paths are laid down in the scriptures as the means to the attainment of this ultimate goal. These are karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnaana yoga. Here the word ‘yoga’ signifies ‘the means’. That is to say, karma, bhakti and jnaana are the means to the attainment of liberation. These are, however, not independent paths, but are intrinsically bound together. Karma yoga is the performance of all duties enjoined upon one by the scriptures, as well as the duties that are incumbent on one because of one’s station in life. If these duties are performed without craving for the fruit of the actions and as an offering to God, they lead to purification of the mind by the eradication of desires and the evil consequences of desire, namely, greed, anger, jealousy and other negative emotions.

The very fact that all actions must be performed as an offering to God implies that one must have devotion to God. Thus the path of bhakti or devotion to God and the path of action, or karma yoga are intrinsically bound together and one cannot be practised without the other. Thus karma yoga and bhakti yoga form one composite whole.

As stated above, karma yoga is the means by which the mind becomes purified by the removal of all impurities in the form of desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride and jealousy. Bhakti yoga brings about concentration of mind. Only a mind which has become pure and one-pointed is capable of attaining self-knowledge. Jnaana yoga consists in hearing the exposition of the scriptures by the Guru, reflecting on what has been heard in order to remove all doubts, and meditation to realise as an actual experience what has been understood intellectually by hearing and reflection. A person who has, by this process, come to experience the truth that he is really the Atman and not the body, mind or sense-organs and remains firmly rooted in that experience is a liberated one or a Jivanmukta.

About the Author Sri S.N. Sastri

Shri S.N.Sastri is a former member of the Indian Revenue Service. He retired as Member, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Government of India.

He has authored the following books:–

1. Commentary in English on Narayaneeyam, a devotional work in Sanskrit by the devotee-poet Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri who lived in Kerala in the 16th century A.D– Published by Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai- 72.

Second Edition- Jan 2005. Pages 761. Price Rs. 160. Contains the slokas in Devanagari script,  word-by-word meaning, and detailed explanatory notes.  Available at all the centres of Chinmaya Mission all over the world.

2. Commentary in English on Satasloki of Sri Adi Sankaracharya– Published by the author. Price Rs. 80.

3. Commentary in English on Hastamalakiyam of Hastamalaka, one of the four disciples of Sri Adi Sankara– Published by the author. Price Rs. 25.

Books 2 and 3 can be had from Jayalakshmi Indological Book House, 6, Appar Swamy Koil Street, (opp. Sanskrit College), Mylapore, Chennai- 600 004. Tel: 24990539.

He has edited the English translation of a monumental commentary in Malayalam on Narayaneeyam, published by The Bhaktaranjini  Trust, Bangalore-94. Price Rs.800.

He has written articles on Vedantic topics which have been published in various journals.

Some of the articles written by him are posted on his website.

. These articles are written in simple language, avoiding all technical jargon. They can be easily understood even by persons who have not had any exposure to Vedanta.

Shri S.N.Sastri can be contacted at and at

The Art Of Leadership: By Prof. V. Krishnamurthy

The motivation for writing this article arose from my speech while chairing a session on ‘Wisdom Perspectives on Leadership’ at the First International Conference on ‘Igniting the Genius Within’ at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad in October 2008.

Leaders and teachers have always used stories to capture our interest and attention. So I am going to tell you a few stories and leave you to infer the lessons yourselves. One thing I assure you, all the stories are real.

Inspite of all the books written upon Leadership, it is not something that is learnt from books or by tuition. One recognizes it only by the extent of the change caused by that leadership and by the quality of that change.

Individual contributors like a writer, an artist, painter or designer produce something which bring in appreciation and pave the way for the contributor evolving into a role model for a new pattern or a new style of work. But a leader does not necessarily merit his leadership by any such material productions or contributions. What he or she does is to cause others to think out of the box, to act innovatively and to behave differently. The contribution of leaders is the change they cause among those who are influenced by them.

If this change rollerskates into further changes in future generations, that becomes a unique legacy, the leader’s legacy. From the point of view of such legacy for the longest period of time transmitted to the largest number of people there is none to beat Valmiki and Vyasa of ancient times, or for that matter, Gautama Buddha and Jesus of later times.

Acts of leadership occur surprisingly even from unexpected quarters. When you analyse these they turn out to be the results of internally inspired responses to certain challenges of the context and time. A challenge is not asking whether it is possible or not. It is about whether the mind is capable of freeing itself. To respond to it one must have the quality of intensity and immediacy.

A rare act of such genius, occurs in a narration in the fourth chapter of Chandogya Upanishad. Satyakama was one of the reputed Vedantic teachers mentioned in the Upanishad. But the birth of Satyakama was only of negative repute. His mother Jabali was a serving-girl, a parichArikA, serving for hire at various houses, “resorting to many” and was therefore unable to name her son’s father. Satyakama had therefore no gotra, no caste, no lineage. When he left for the gurukul, wanting to learn all the Shastras, she told him to announce himself as her son and therefore he should call himself Satyakama Jabala. He told his guru that very truth and that declaration earned him the approbation of his guru who concluded that this honest acknowledgement of a truth of such damaging nature could not have come from anyone who did not have the noble qualities usually associated with Brahminhood, and so he initiated the boy and proceeded further with his education. This decision of Jabali to acknowledge this damaging truth, transcending the cultural taboo of the times, must be considered a daring act of leadership.

Leadership turns out to be an art in the hands of the leaders; in fact it is the enabling art of progress. At the same time it is also a scientific process that may not have to be studied as a methodology but should be allowed to evolve over a period of time according to one’s personal traits of leadership. It is one’s nature that gets in the way of the fructification of leadership traits that may be dormant in one’s personality.

Ancient books like the Mahabharata have numerous lessons to teach us these personal traits of leadership. Just to take one example, in the Mahabharata we have the account of the divine sage Sanatsujata teaching the basics of philosophy to King Dhritarashtra, the blind father of the hundred Kauravas, who was blind not only physically but in terms of his stupid and passionate fancy towards his unprincipled sons. Sanatsujata, amidst his technical exposition, also hits the rock bottom of naivety in mentioning six elementary virtues as the most fundamental for any living being, and certainly are the gateways, for leadership. These are truth, straightforwardness, sense of shame in doing wrong, control of senses, purity and education (*satyArjavahrIr-dama-shauca-vidyAH*).

Among these I want to focus on the third, namely, the sense of shame while doing adharma. In Sanskrit, akArya karaNe lajjA. It is also known by the one word ‘hrIh’. The central problem in the morals (both in public and private life) of modern times is the absence of any sense of shame while going against the accepted norms of morality. For the health of the society it may be justified to question certain norms, but in all practice the sense of shame in doing wrong was the one sure insulation the previous generations had against a degeneration of morality. Without the virtue of hrIh, one goes down, by succumbing to temptations to do wrong. In fact in these days of fear of youngsters getting addicted to drugs or extremist fads, the one virtue that should be inculcated in them even as children is hrIh. Even if this means swinging the pendulum back towards a conformist approach our civilisation ought preferably to have this swing.

It was by sensing the all-round moral degradation that in modern times, Sir M. Visveswarayya, a visionary par excellence, before he accepted the prestigious office of Dewan of Mysore, called all his relatives and friends for a grand dinner and announced therein that he would accept the prestigious office only if they assured him that none of them would come to him for any favours! It may appear to be a quick-fix strategy but was indeed a daring act of leadership in the context. Such instances are certainly unique legacies that leaders are remembered for.

In the same Mahabharata, while Sanatsujata listed the six most fundamental virtues that any aspirant to leadership should have, the divine roving sage Narada, while meeting King Yudhishtira who had just been made Crown Prince in Indraprastha, asks the King some rhetorical questions one of which is whether as a king and administrator he has avoided certain six evils. Coming from Narada to Yudhishtira, the paragon of virtue, this list is of great importance. Here is the list of these six evils: sleep, indolence, fear, anger, softness, and procrastination. (*nidrAlasya-bhaya-krodhAH mArdavaM dIrghasUtratA*). No aspirant to greatness can ever afford to fall into any of these habit-forming evils.

Narada’s advice is a warning to all political leaders, scientific workers, project managers and administrators. All these people complain about lack of time to do his or her job. One’s time-organization comes not a little from the proper organization of how much one sleeps and when. Sleep and Procrastination are two of the greatest obstacles to greatness. Particularly the latter one is a too familiar scene in present day politics and beaurocracy.

‘Fear’ is understandably in Narada’s list. Ferlessness is a great virtue for a would-be leader. Gandhiji was able to bring to the Indian masses the quality of fearlessness, more than anything else, which alone led them to that great event of attainment of Swaraj. Before his time they were afraid of almost everything, of the Government, of the Police, of the caste system, of the rules of a tradition-bound society, of the westerner, of beaurocracy, of prison, and, most of all, of violence. That you can resist and fight all these non-violently was his teaching and in order to make the whole thing work he implanted into their minds the virtue of fearlessness by his own acts of self-sacrifice.

True leadership does not reside merely in techniques or in the discovery of new technologies. It exhibits itself in the integration of several experiences that carry authenticity, into one voice for the service of others. It is not the head alone or the heart alone. The head does not hear anything until the heart has listened. What the heart knows today will be understood by the head only later. The heart might say: Don’t get lost in resisting and battling against things; but dedicate your energies to fight for something, instead of against something. Make it the most important habit of your life. Gandhiji fought for honesty and straightforwardness even when he appeared to fight against British Imperialism. That was why he, sitting inside the prison, stopped the ongoing civil disobedience movement which he himself had started, because the Champaran incident of violence failed to broadcast his wavelength of honesty and straightforwardness. He wanted every thought, every word and every deed to cherish and nurture the seeds of integrity and non-violence for that future independent India of his dreams. He not only wanted so, but made it a habit of his.

A transactive model of leadership only builds skills and competences. But great leaders like Gandhiji belonged to the transformative model of leaders which creates a fundamental shift in point of view, values and purpose. But it is not only such great leaders who do the transformations. Even an ordinary incident where one goes beyond one’s authority becomes the seed of a significant transformation. Rosa Parks, an elderly black woman went beyond her authority in 1955 when she refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her behaviour distinguished itself as an act of leadership, because it was that spontaneous act of hers that was used by her and other civil rights leaders to focus public attention and responsibility on the issue of civil rights. The public response was to raise the necessary outcry of protest that catalysed the civil rights movemement of the 1960’s.

Here is one more example of something that emanated from a great leader, India’s greatest industrial giant of the early twentieth century, that taught his contemporaries a fundamental shift in purpose and perspective, of the ordinary act, known as charitable benefaction. Jamshedji Tata, in the twilight years of the nineteenth century donated his own house in Bombay to the cause of scientific research and development in India. His friends and relatives from the Parsi community pleaded with him to change his mind and donate it to the cause of the development of the poor in his own community. His reply to them deserves to be printed in gold: “What advances a nation or community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members as to lift up the best and most gifted so as to make them of the greatest service to the country. I prefer this constructive philanthropy which seeks to educate and develop the faculties of the best of our young men”. It is that farsight of this great visionary leader who gave a magnificent shift of perspective to a traditionally respected act of charity, that finally gave this nation the topmost research organization of science and engineering, the present Indian Institute of Science.

Talking of transformative model of leadership I cannot but recall the phenomenal transformation that my own institution, BITS Pilani, went through in the period 1970 to 1988, during which I was one of the two Deputy Directors, in addition to my duties as Professor of Mathematics. In that capacity we were responsible along with a few others for the entire innovative restructuring and developmental process of BITS, from its earlier run-of-the mill type of traditional Indian university to its modern style of a technological university.

We were pioneers in this total change. The epoch-making decision that we took as early as 1970 was to thrust forward all the way across the board instead of tackling one issue after another in isolation. In the growth of an organisation from its primitive state, without violent damage to its men and materials, such a strategy did make the path hard and long but it worked.

The reforms that were thus achieved included: A system of admissions based on an all-India merit index; an integrated four year degree programme in which specialisation follows a common broad spectrum of foundations; Science degrees linked with a professional dual degree so that both attract the top layers of the cream of the country; student involvement in every academic developmental and monitoring activity; intensive teacher training for all teachers through special on-the-job workshops; industry linked internship for every undergraduate for as long as six months which is duly evaluated by professionals; emphasis on mathematical-cum-analytical foundations for every programme; flexible academic regulations which gets continuous work done by students and also continuously evaluated by the concerned teachers; active production of text-books tested by course development and class use; and computerised development of all infrastructure.

All of these were started in the seventies from scratch. Scratch does not mean we started with a clean slate. We actually started with all the failings that all Indian universities shared in the educational milieu of India. It was certainly not an overnight transformation. We worked the hard way 365x24x7 for 18 years before we handed over the first phase of an almost finished product wherein all the educational ideals which had been talked about since 1947 but scarcely implemented in any of the universities, had been introduced, implemented, online corrections made and sustained and finally the legacy of this transformation was handed over to a team consisting of the next generation who were themselves trained by us. Participating in this gigantic process, we ourselves got transformed from ordinary class-room expositors, to leaders of transformation. We happily see already that these transformations are roller-skating into further transformations.

One other major quality of leadership that can be recognised in all leaders is an unwavering conviction and faith in the cause for which one is leading. In the case of Gandhiji this was his faith in Truth and Non-violence; in the case of Nehru it was his faith in the principle of democracy. In the case of Prabhupada, who in the sixties and seventies of the last century revolutionised thousands of the western world into adopting an Asian religion of devotion, totally new to them, it was a never-vacillating faith in divine help. He singlehandedly started, in 1959 or so, to write, print and publish the monumental volumes of his own English translation and commentary of Srimad Bhagavatam, a Purana of 18000 verses in Sanskrit, almost when he was nearing sixty years. This unique decision of his turned out to become, within the next ten years, a fantastic money spinner for the new world-wide organization called Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), which he founded. The remarkable challenge that he undertook and successfully accomplished was the transformation of the most materialistic youth of the times, the rebelling anti-conformist westernised youth who were products of the luxury, affluence and license of the West — not just a few, but literally thousands of them — into godly personalities with the loftiest of spiritual and ethical ideals. Till he was seventy he struggled alone to implement his master’s injunction of propagating the glories of Lord Krishna and transmitting the treasures of SrImad bhAgavatam. But even in the land where these had been held, without any doubt, in superlative esteem by one and all, he could not succeed. Till he was seventy, only three books were written by him, only one disciple was initiated and the worldwide society of Krishna devotees was only in his dream. But in the next twelve years, he wrote sixty books, initiated a few thousands and the society of his dreams came to fruition with more than one hundred centres all over the world. All this was a marvel of leadership in just the last twelve years of his 82 years of life, achieved by an unwavering conviction and faith in the presence of divine help.

Appayya Dikshita who lived for 72 years in South India in the 16th century is another monumental example of what a transformative model of leadership could be. He was the guiding spirit of a great movement in which he organised the services of a large band of volunteers trained by him to disseminate among the masses his great life mission of reconciliation of warring religious groups, particularly Shaivism and Vaishnavism. He was born in a very hot age of bigotry and vigorous proselytism. The adherents of the creeds were mostly cantankerous persons who mistook acrimony for devotion. It was in this dark atmosphere that Appayya Dikshita rose to such heights of fame by propagating, through his ambassadors of tolerance, that the religious books of the rival schools of thought did not proclaim mutual exclusiveness or hostility. His massive scholarship and spiritual wisdom provided him the seeds of authenticity – one of the most important requisites of leadership –for this legacy of his.

I shall wind up by mentioning one more name, that of V. Krishnaswamy Iyer, (1863-1911) whose prodigious achievements within a life of 48 years are a bagful. Starting as a lawyer in the Madras Bar, he became a judge of the Madras High Court and later served as a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He played a significant role in supporting the move to send Swami Vivekananda to the Parliament of Religions. He founded the Ayurvedic College of medicine and a free Dispensary in Mylapore. He was pivotal in starting the Madras Law Journal on the lines of critical Law Journals in Europe. In 1906 he started the Madras Sanskrit College and provided for free education to students therein. In the same year when there was the sensational case of the crash due to bankruptcy of Arbuthnot Bank it was he who was responsible as the contending advocate for bringing the culprit to justice. And as a consequential contribution to posterity he played the key role in the founding of the Indian Bank soon after. The 1907 session of the Congress Party was held in Madras mostly due to his efforts and he was instrumental in striking a rapport between the moderates and extremists in the Party, particularly after the Surat split of 1907 in the party. He was responsible for introducing a number of educational reforms in the University of Madras. During the minority of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi he was the foremost to see that the Mutt did not fall into wrong hands. In all these instances the silent unconscious unseen influence of his own spotless character backed up by a spiritual conviction was the one thing that surely contributed to his achievement of leadership.

And, most of all, seizing the opportunity at the right time even if it means taking a risk, is important. I will give you the most ancient example for this. In the Upanishadic times there lived a great towering personality in the field of spirituality, by name Yajnavalkya. That he was not only great, but great as a leader with conviction and confidence, came to light in a much-talked-about seminar in the court of King Janaka. King Janaka himself was a royal householder-philosopher known for his scholarship as well as his adherence to philosophical insights. Janaka arranged this seminar in which he announced an on-the-spot-competition. Having invited all the stalwarts in Vedanta for a yajna, Janaka provokes them into a discussion by announcing that he has earmarked one thousand cows, each with a bag of ten gold coins and all these constitute the prize for the one among them who can declare himself to be the most erudite in vedas and its accessories. The entire assembly is stunned at this announcement, stupefied by the challenge of the occasion and the seriousness it demanded and kept silent. But after a little period of silence, Yajnavalkya rises up and with his assistant makes preparations to take possession of the cows. Then it is that the assembled scholars begin to challenge him one by one. Each one asks him several questions about the subtleties of the Knowledge about the Absolute. Yajnavalkya shoots forth his answers without any hesitation or confusion and with such clarity that every one had to withdraw and sit down. Finally one lady, Vacaknavi Gargi, announces that she is going to ask just two questions of Yajnavalkya and the questions will be of such nature that if he answers them well, there should be no more doubt about who carries the day. And that is how Yajnavalkya carries the day. The technical text of the discussion described elaborately in Brihad-Aranyakopanishad is beyond our subject today. But what is relevant to us in the context of the topic of Leadership is the style of the leader who rose to the occasion irrespective of the august nature of the assembly and the serenity that was demanded.

The last quality that I shall emphasize is a confidence in oneself. It expresses itself in several ways. I shall only give three examples from three different perspective. A filial assurance of perspective came from the mother of the astrophysicist Dr. S. Chandrasekhar when she alone decided, against the recommendations of all the rest of the family, that her son, inspite of her own serious illness, should accept the offer to go abroad for his higher studies, when he was around twenty.

A perspective from a logical reasoning was shown by Prof. G.H. Hardy who took a bold risky decision after several deliberations with Prof. Littlewood, on the matter of what appeared to be a cranky freak technical letter from an unknown unheard-of clerk in distant Madras Port Trust.

A third perspective of confidence in one’s own out-of-the-box thinking was shown around 1920 by the budding music maestro Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar who adopted and persisted with the then-unusual style of slapping the palm on one’s thigh to keep the Tala. The orthodox brahmin elite of Madras did not particularly like this because according to them this kind of slapping is what is prescribed as a cremation ritual that a son does when he circumambulates his father’s dead body at the cremation ground. So they protested with one voice. And there was also a second kind of protest from another quarter of the public because according to them this slapping is against stage manners and constitutes an insult to the long Tamil tradition of musical genius which should sense the rhythm purely orally. These protests from two complementary quarters did not shake the resolve or the wisdom of the budding maestro but they however posed such a challenge to his closest friends and well-wishers that they finally sought the opinion and verdict of the Kanchi Mutt. The then new head of the Kanchi Mutt, the young Chandra-sekharendra Saraswati, was being given scriptural education by the Pundits of the Mutt and they gave the verdict that the slapping of the thigh while in the sitting posture did not constitute a sacrilege. There ended the matter, Ariyakudy’s star was rising and a new era started in the history of Carnatic music.

Before I wind up I should tell you the story of how in my own life I was once sucked into a certain leadership position that unexpectedly turned out to be not so enviable at the time, though at this distance in time I can talk about it with pride.

Ninety of us Indians travelled to the United States in August 1962 as Fulbright Travel Grantees. Our sponsors for the entire trip was USEFI, Delhi. We had a four-day orientation in Mumbai (then called Bombay), at the end of which we were divided into three batches of 30 each, each batch having a different travel itinerary. However, in the first lap of our journey by boat from Bombay to Naples we were all together. At Naples the batches separated and went their different ways. At Bombay itself at the end of the orientation, leaders of the three batches had been elected. I was elected leader of my batch. There were 25 men and five women in my batch. Most of them were headed for a graduate education in the U.S. Five of them including myself were going to take up faculty positions in different universities in the U.S.

At Bombay they gave our tickets upto Naples and further told us that at Naples a representative of the Council of Student Travel (with HQ in Paris) would give us necessary money as well as tickets for the onward journey. Our itinerary was to alight at Naples, travel by train to Rome, and again travel by train from Rome to Rotterdam from where we would take another boat to New York. A student representative received us at Naples but he and the taxis at his disposal were not prepared for our 90 pieces of luggage for the thirty of us. By the time we could find a bus for us to carry our luggage and reach the trainstation, our train had left. We left by a later train and arrived at Rome in the evening.

One Mr. Marconi, also a student, took care of us for the evening and night, gave us just one fourth of the money we expected to get, and the next morning put us in a train to Rotterdam. Only after he put us on the train we came to know that no reservation had been done for us but actually we had been shoved into a compartment which was completely reserved from Milan onwards. So all of us, thirty Indians along with 90 pieces of baggage had to alight in Milan, around 5 PM, completely stranded. When the train was departing from Rome Mr. Marconi had signalled to us that he would send a telegram to Milan station master and set matters right; but obviously this must have goofed up somewhere. We had no idea of when our boat was to depart from Rotterdam the next day. The Station Master at Milan tried to help us by suggesting that we could go by the next train, leaving around 11 PM but it would reach Rotterdam only late evening the next day and even in that train there might not be accommodation enough for so many of us!

In the meantime our group of 30 had several different opinions (some of them as crazy as you can imagine) as to how to meet this crisis situation. I could get constructive help and advice from four or five in our group of whom I cannot forget Dr. A.M. Vaidya, Dr. Gautam and Joseph Edwards. But it was an eye-opener to me that even in such an adult population of well-educated youths, about half a dozen in our batch were so upset at the turn of events as we left Rome, that we had to treat them almost as children lost in a mela. There were another two or three who were so argumentative that they almost threatened to break from the group and run away in Milan.

We needed all our wits to keep them in the group with the rest of us. There were a few others who cared the least, whatever might happen; and so this was the other extreme, namely, total indifference! Well, in about 24 hours I learnt a lot, by the hard way of course, about the hazards of leadership! The five of us who could keep our cool took an unusual decision to immediately contact the US Consul in Milan (whose office we learnt was within half an hour walking distance from the Station). As our good fortune would have it, he had still not left the office and he promised to stay till we arrived at his office. He made the necessary phone calls to Paris and Rotterdam and made some arrangements the exact nature of which was not then clear to us. But he asked us to go back to the Station and be ready to board the 11 PM train.

What actually happened at 11 PM was very Indian! The train was to start from Milan so as it was backing into the platform from the yard, we noticed that thirty towels had been used to ‘reserve’ thirty seats for us in the very familiar way in which we Indians used to appropriate seats in trains in those days when every seat was free for all!. At Rotterdam the next day our boat, the Waterman, had been made to wait five hours for us, and as soon as all of us got on the boat around 7 PM or so, it whistled off. We found our baggages had already arrived for us on the boat, thanks to the excellent logistics that must have been charted out by the Consul at Milan.

The point of this story is the leadership part that was put to the severest test during the fire-fighting and trouble-shooting and I must say this much in fairness to the story – the majority was always positive and helpful. Even the simple problem of loading and unloading the 90 pieces of luggage presented challenging leadership problems of coordination and discipline. Incidentally, the luggages were really very heavy, because we were all scheduled for travel by boat and we had to tranship them six times in two days ourselves, at Naples, Rome and Milan!

Summing up we may list the qualities all of which, I think, are fundamental characteristics of Leadership. Truth, straightforwardness, sense of shame in doing wrong, control of senses, purity and education – the six fundamental positives of Sanatsujata; Avoidance of six fundamental negatives as advised by Narada, namely of sleep, indolence, fear, anger, softness, and procrastination. To the list of positives should be added: authenticity, a fundamental shift in purpose and perspective where necessary, a spotless character, a mind that can free itself from the shackles of the past and the present, an impeccable confidence in oneself, and most of all, an absolute conviction and faith in the ideal, along with, if I may add, a self-negating humility.



The True Heart: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar


Image originally posted on the Ramana Maharshi FB Page by Cathy Ginter

Dear Friends,

In any language, the term “Heart” is unique. In Sanskrit, the “Heart” is referred to as Hridayam. Hridayam means, “Here is the Center”.

Bhagavan Sri Ramana gave a unique emphasis to the term “Heart” or “Hriydayam” in Sanskrit. He spoke about it frequently as the center of centers in which the mind must find final rest.

In ancient Eastern texts and scriptures, the Heart is talked about in the context of physical health, mental health, and also spiritual health and vitality. Even in English, we intuitively know that the word “Heart” really has multiple meanings.

If someone says to you, “You have a beautiful heart”, it does not mean that the person feels you have a very attractive physical organ beating in your chest.  No, not at all! The statement about the beauty of your heart implies that you, your personality, your essential character have a warmth and glow which others find pleasant and joyful.

When we try to deeply understand a situation, a person, or resolve a dilemma, we inquire, “What is at the heart of this situation”? We say “let us go to the heart of the matter”. We might even look in someone’s eyes and ask, “What is truly in your heart.”

If we are trying to get to the truth, we never ask anyone in a conversation, “What is truly in your stomach or what is truly in your liver?”. That would make no sense. We do not even ask, “What is in your brain?”, unless we are being sarcastic. Sometimes, we might say, “What is on your mind?” But such a statement does not have the same warmth or mean the same thing as “What is in your heart”? 

When We ask, “What is in your heart?”, it is an offer of direct and sympathetic communication. “Let us have a heart to heart talk”, signifies openness for a  mutually respectful and even a loving exchange.

The term “Heart” literally means Truth. When we want to know the Truth, we want to go to the heart of the matter. When I say to someone, “I want to speak my heart”, it means I want to speak my truth. I want to give my true feelings.

Heart means center, or core, which provides the foundation for the structure of our perceptions. The light of the Heart as consciousness reflecting off our latent tendencies (karmas) appears to give color to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions which constitute our personality.

We know and understand and give meaning to this whole universe through our Heart. Truly, to know others is cleverness, but to know your own Heart is wisdom.

The old saying, “Know thyself” means “Know your Heart”.

Through what power do we know the world? Ancient sages have said, Know “That” by which all else is known.

How do we know anything?

When we get up in the morning and open our eyes, we see the world. By what power do we see? By what power do we hear?

By what power do we know of our own existence? No one comes and tell us every morning, “Hey, you exist. This is your lucky day”.  We know we exist. This knowledge does not require external validation.

The French Philosopher Descartes said, “I think, therefore, I am”. However, the sages of Advaita stated thousand of years ago that “I Am” is prior to “thoughts”. Thinking is apriori predicated on our already being.

We know we exist and we know it with certainty. This certainty arises from the nature of the Heart.

If you have known everything but not your own Heart, you will not be fully satisfied. Something will be missing. Underlying our personality, thoughts, mental makeup, physical makeup, there is that power that allows us to be conscious of our being. Conscious of our existence. Conscious of the world of perceptions.

This power has many names in various religions. Ancients called this power simply the Heart. It is one’s own Heart, that is at the core of existence. It is one’s own Self, which shines and radiates through the medium of the mind as pure consciousness.

Knowing the Heart, one knows all hearts and minds. Everything arises from the same One Heart.


OM! What Shall I Meditate On? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Dear Friends,

When consciousness focuses its attention on a perceived or imagined object (such as an energy center, point of light, sound, music, mantra, etc.), that is known as concentration and can lead to deeper meditation and samadhi or trance states.

Truly all such techniques, although useful, are inherently and fundamentally flawed in seeing our own nature.

Such methods presuppose that there is something to concentrate or meditate on outside of consciousness. But how could that be?

All point of concentration, all techniques and methods of meditation only exist in consciousness. A person who understands this deeply loses interest in methods of meditation. The consciousness of a Self-Realized sage has settled into its own nature. It is in perpetual communion with itself. Always new and alive and pure being whose very nature is meditation does not concentrate or meditate.

On What Shall I Meditate? And How!


Life Is Yoga: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

For one in whom the complete and radical understanding of the nature of being and Heart has emerged, there is no particular place or time to practice yoga, concentration, meditation, samadhi, etc. The fullness of understanding itself is its own transformation.

Here and now, we are free. This moment itself is the freedom. You, yourself are this very moment.