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Friday, January 21, 2022

Shared Mythology for the 21st century: Pathway to a Shared Sacred Mother Earth (3)

 We now have better understanding of the physical aspects of this Universe, our planet and of life. Our scientific advances have helped spawn several new technologies which were never even dreamed of, except by a few science fiction writers and visionaries. These technological advances have enriched our lives. They have contributed to elimination or better control of diseases, longer life, rapid travel, rapid communication, space travel etc.,

For example, when I traveled to USA from India in 1958, the duration of the journey had already been shortened from several months by ship to a few days by planes. Yet, the jet age had not arrived, and the travel took multiple hops and three days. We can now fly, even without supersonic speeds, in about 16 hours.

And humans can now fly to the moon and be back safely and can take a space flight around the earth if one can afford to pay.

In the 1950’s I did not have any phone communication with my family for 5 years (from 1958 to 1963).  For one thing everyone in India did not have personal telephone line. Besides the transatlantic underwater cable collections were poor and the costs were prohibitive.

Where are we now? I know of daughters who live in USA now who are on Facetime or Skype with their mothers in India to get cooking instructions. Music lessons are conducted online. We can see and talk with anyone, anywhere in the world at any time. Meetings, Conventions and Conferences attended by hundreds of participants are conducted on virtual platforms.

In the 1950’s, when I was working on research projects, we did not have the internet. To do my literature research, I had to go to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia which had the largest collection of medical journals going back to the late 1800’s. Journals from each year were bound into volumes and kept in their stacks in the basement of the building. We could not go to the stacks and pick out the volume we wanted. We had to go to the beautiful large reading room at the College and fill out a request slip with the details of the name of the journal, volume number and the year. An attendant will go down to the stacks and bring the volume we requested. Since I was in training, the only days I could go to the College of Physicians Library were Saturdays. I usually waited till I had a list of 10 or more references to look up before I went there.

 

Fast forward to 2021, what is the status now?  I can sit in my own study and look up almost any research article I need by scrolling the computer screen and clicking! Indeed, that is how I obtained data on Infant Mortality and Life expectancy for an earlier paragraph.

 

But science and technology have come with their own burdens. In other words, they have contributed to human welfare; but they have also contributed to some of the dangers we face today.

 

We develop evidence-based approaches and new technologies to solve specific problems. But every problem cannot be solved by scientific and technological solutions because every technology will have its “downside” unless we use them wisely. As quoted by Garrett Hardin in his classic article on Tragedy of the Commons (Garret Hardon, 1968), when Wiesner and York were asked to advice the US Government on the problem of nuclear proliferation and the arms race, they said that “ If the great powers continue to look for solutions in the area of science and technology only, the result will be to worsen the situation." The implication was that we must change our human behavior to solve some of the problems. This is true for our current problems such as climate change, disappearance of species, rapid spread of both viruses and misinformation.

 

What are the strengths and weaknesses of science and technology?

 

Facts and objectivity are the strengths of science. But it tends to ignore, marginalize, or minimize the importance of emotions and subjective experience.

 

Measurements and quantitation are its strengths. But it tends to quantify even qualities which cannot be measured. Putting a number on a quality and measuring does not make it scientific.

 

It breaks down a field of knowledge into parts and makes it understandable. But it struggles to make a whole from its parts. It knows the trees, but not the forest. As pointed out by Vine Deloria, “…..modern man has foreclosed the possibility of experiencing life in favor of explaining it”. (God is Red, Grosset Books, 973, page 298)

 

Demonstrable evidence makes the conclusions arrived by scientific method reliable and useful for better understanding. But complete knowledge requires the faculties of our body, mind with its reason and emotion and the spirit. Science does not allow for information from two of those four domains.

 

Science helps us to know about a thing as perceived, but not a thing as is.

 

By its very nature, conclusions arrived at by scientific inquiry are tentative. They do change and should change when new facts emerge to give a better explanation. This is its strength. But this strength is misunderstood as weakness (“scientists do not know. They keep changing their mind” is the way some folks see) and this misunderstanding is used to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of the public by politicians and industries.

 

Scientists are often not able to bring their knowledge to the common folks in a language they can understand. Sometimes they even look down upon common folks. By insisting that everything gets approved by “science”, they tend to ignore the wisdom of the native and indigenous people and their “lived” experiences. In short, science is making the same mistake religions did for a long time insisting that everything – even evident facts – had to be approved by the religious heads. (Remember what happened to Galileo)

 

To the common man, scientific knowledge appears to be too objective, too cold, sterile, and value-less.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Shared Mythology for the 21st century: Pathway to a Shared Sacred Mother Earth (2)

 What other factors influenced me to plan this activity?

Even before these two reports, I was moved by the catastrophic and civilization-changing impact of the COVID 19 pandemic which has exposed the vulnerabilities of our society, widening gaps between socio-economic groups and polarization of people. I wrote a piece with the title Cooperation, Collective Welfare, Common Good and Common Purpose on June 19, 2020 (Athreya B, 2020) at my blog site.

Since we were all stuck in isolation and since positive thinking is good for mental health, I started a dialogue with some of my friends on three questions:

1.What have we learned from this pandemic?

2. What are the areas we need to focus in rebuilding our society with emphasis on values?

3. What are some of the values on which future should be built on, values that are most likely to be useful for the future generations?

My own answer to the third question led me to the observation that at present, our transactions are dominated by competition, individual advancement, individual happiness, and legal relationships. Based on this observation I thought that,

For a peaceful and just society, competition must be moderated by cooperation.

The word happiness should include collective happiness and spiritual happiness. Individual happiness must be moderated by universal welfare. Pursuit of happiness should include not only pursuit of material happiness but also happiness of others and spiritual happiness.

Morality and ethics should matter and, morality must take precedence over legality. Even if the law allows, one should not practice what the “inner light” says is immoral.

Only individuals are capable of conscience and responsibilities; groups are not. Responsibilities and duties of the individuals and of organizations and the government should be considered covenants, in which the more powerful in the transaction takes care of the welfare of the weaker participant; and not mere legal contracts, buried in small prints and disclaimers, which can be manipulated by the rich and the powerful.

At a practical level, I also concluded that hunger prevention and violence prevention demand special attention given the effects of the pandemic and the “infodemics”. What are the steps individuals can take? And what values should guide the individual? How can these values be shared values of the entire humanity and not parochial ones?

We need facts to know where we are now (and why) and we need facts supported by the mind, heart and spirit to develop our ideas on where we want to go and how to get there. The articles referred to earlier at the beginning of this essay document all the facts adequately.

At present, all the well-known human frailties are exposed quicker and spread faster due to the combination of human activities and technology. The technology driving this trend is the social media with its emphasis on individualism, equal weight for all information factual or not (fictions and conspiracies), and monetized algorithm. The human frailties are uninhibited individualism at the expense of group welfare and erratic and often, irrational group behavior endangering the individual the society and the entire humanity.

Science has helped us understand nature better and has improved the quality of life in all parts of the world. Yet, inequalities abound. Amidst distractions and information disorder, we are struggling to find future direction.

There has been enormous progress in science in the past 200 years.  In my own professional field of medicine, the advances we have made over the past 100 years is mind-boggling. In my medical school days, I had seen every known infectious disease known to mankind from diphtheria to rabies. Indeed, there were special hospitals for infectious diseases in every major city in the world. There are none today. We knew by inference that viruses cause some of the diseases, but no one had grown the virus or seen it. Now, we know how each virus looks like, what it is made of and its genetic composition. In earlier era, even after we knew how to grow the viruses, it took several decades to develop vaccines, test them for safety and efficacy and produce them in mass scale.   Look at the rapidity with which the genetic structure of not only the original COVID 19 virus, but its mutants, are recognized in few weeks and effective vaccines are developed within a month or two.

In the 1950’s we did not even know that humans carry 46 chromosomes. Now we know the structure of DNA and can manipulate the DNA at precise locations.

A child diagnosed with acute leukemia in the 1960’s rarely lived more than one year after the diagnosis. Now there are several adults, survivors of childhood leukemia, who are battling secondary cancers.

In my medical school days, we knew the word “immunity”, but we did not know its components. When I was involved in research with the polio virus in Dr. Coriell’s laboratory, we knew about serum antibodies as made of globulins. But we did not know that there were Immunoglobulins G, M, A, D and E. We certainly did not know the cellular components of the immune system.

I had seen scores of children with severe malnutrition in India and elsewhere. Although undernutrition is still a problem, severe malnutrition is fortunately rare in most parts of the world.

Infant mortality rate in India used to be over 150 per 1,000 (189 to be exact) live births in 1947. Now it is still high, but at 29 per 1,000 live births. In the 1950’s life expectancy in India used to be 31 years and now it is 69 years. Life expectancy used to be 36 to 46 years in the 1950’s in many parts of the world. Now it is over 70 in many countries.

The corresponding figures in USA are infant mortality rate of 29 per 1,000 live births in 1950 and 5.9 in the year 2000. Life expectancy used to be 68 years in 1950 and it is 79 now.

Granted that all these advances are not just due to medical science, but due to other advances such as in public health, medical technology, and agricultural methods.  Yet, progress is undeniable, thanks to science and technology.


Friday, January 7, 2022

Shared Mythology for the 21st century: Pathway to a Shared Sacred Mother Earth (1)

 Wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year.

With passing of each day, the number of days remaining for people at my age are shrinking. That is reality. For people like me, it also gives a sense of urgency to share what we know and do something for the welfare of future generations. This is particularly important for me personally since I spent my professional life with children, and care greatly about their welfare.

This series of essays is probably the most important message I have for children of the future. The central message of this essay is my legacy for the future generations. It is to introduce the idea of shared mythology for the entire humanity and a pathway to get there.

This is not a policy statement but a wish list. It is not for policy-making or political actions – but for individual efforts. It should be a spiritual effort. I hope each one of you will develop your own plan, implement it, and share the message with the younger generation.

 Title:   Shared Mythology for the 21st century

Subtitle:  Pathway to a Shared Sacred Mother Earth 

Two recent reports by leading world experts document with solid evidence that our civilization is at an inflection point (Bak-Coleman et al 2021; Editorial 2021). They are “red alerts” for humanity to act as one unit to save this planet and this civilization for the future generations. As a pediatrician committed to the interests of children, I feel compelled to do a little something. This is my offering to Mother Earth.

In her recent Book of Hope (Goodall, Abrams, Hudson, 2021), the saintly Jane Goodall suggests that it is no use just hoping for the better. Hope must be sustained and implemented with action. That is what I wish to do.

This is also a follow-up of my earlier book on Our Shared Sacred Space in which I defined sacredness and shared sacredness. Here, I wish to develop a pathway, based on compassion and cooperation, to that shared sacredness, leading to collective welfare of not only humans but of all life forms.

The focus of this monograph will be to develop ideas for a Shared Sacred Space for all of humanity to live and to celebrate and to propose a set of Universal Dharma (ethics and morality). Facts and reasoning of the mind, understanding and compassion of the heart, universal human values (called sadarana dharma in the Vedic writings of India) of spirituality will be the guiding lights. I hope that ideas expressed in these passages will be acceptable to people from all nations, cultures, traditions, and faiths.

Great civilizations need lofty ideals to aim for and noble values to be guided by. Here are some suggestions and facts and reasons behind them.

What are the two “red alert” reports referred to in the earlier paragraph?

The first one is an essay with the title: Stewardship of global collective behavior published on June 21, 2021, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (Bak-Coleman, 2021). The authors are scholars in different fields of study, including Philosophy, Ethics, Climate science, Information science, Neuroscience, Biology, Human behavior, Anthropology, Psychology and Engineering. They have all come to the same observation and conclusion which demand our attention.

To quote the authors: “Our larger, more complex social networks now transfer high-fidelity information over vast distances at low cost. The digital age and the rise of social media have accelerated changes to our social systems, with poorly understood functional consequences. This gap in our knowledge represents a principal challenge to scientific progress, democracy, and actions to address global crises. We argue that the study of collective behavior must rise to a “crisis discipline”.

Since the authors use the word “crisis” we need to look at their observations and conclusions as an urgent matter requiring immediate attention.

Their observation is that our collective behavior in the past few years such as denying climate changes, refusing life-saving vaccines, racism and violence have become increasingly dangerous to our own survival. Our irrational collective human behavior (not individual behavior) is driven by several factors. One of them clearly is the uncontrolled flow of information which any one can create without any requirement for proof or accuracy. 

We live in an age of “information disorder” and “infodemics”.  Misinformation, dangerous information, and wrong information are spread easily through social media. Social media platforms  give priority to the number of “clicks” at their site, not to the contents and the impact of the content on the behavior of people. Algorithms developed by media companies are to maximize their profit. These companies do not control themselves. In the name of free speech and also because these companies are multinational, no government regulation controls them either.

Besides, it is known that false information and rumors spread faster than properly verified news.

Human collective behavior is a complex adaptive system shaped by evolution. Till now information spread slowly and there was time for our societies to verify and adapt to changes over time. But now our world has entered a heavily altered state because of the way false and wrong information spread very fast without any control. 

The authors do not offer any immediate solutions but suggest that we begin by framing “human collective behavior as a complex adaptive system shaped by evolution, a system that much like our natural world has entered a heavily altered and likely unsustainable state”. They suggest further that we study how information spreads through media, why people fall victims to false information and how to spread correct information before the wrong information gets settled in people’s mind and lead them to irrational behavior. We must study how new technologies we adopt today will impact global patterns of beliefs and behavior of people (specifically group behavior) tomorrow. They suggest that the study of collective behavior must rise to a “crisis discipline” just as medicine and climate science have and provide guidance to policymakers and regulators to give proper direction to the creation and dissemination of useful information.

The second paper is an Editorial published on August 10, 2021, in Science with the title Clarion Call from Climate Panel (Editorial 2021). This editorial referred to the Assessment Report No 6 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was written by 234 authors over 3 years based on thousands of comments and reports. The Panel (IPCC) concluded that the contributions of human activities to global warming is “unequivocal” and is an “established fact”. The report also warns that “The window for mitigating the worst projected impacts of global climate change is closing”.

Following this report, we adults, who are supposed to be responsible for the safety and welfare of our children, were scolded severely by “children”. In an Opinion column in the New York Times on August 19, 2021, representatives of children (Thunberg, Calderón, Jhumu and Njuguna 2021) wrote the following words: “The fundamental goal of the adults in any society is to protect their young and do everything they can to leave a better world than the one they inherited. The current generation of adults, and those that came before, are failing at a global scale”. This stung me particularly since I am a pediatrician and care much about the welfare of the future generations.

Friday, December 31, 2021

"Lived forward, understood backward"

“Life is lived forward but understood backward”, says T S Eliot.

Living forward, we carry with us everything we have learned over the years from our parents, our family, school, friends, books we have read, lectures we have listened to and our lived experiences at home and at work. All of these were observed, experienced, interpreted, stored in memory, and recalled as we “live forward”. We live forward with a cluttered mind – with everything we have learnt, helpful and unhelpful perceptions, interpretations, and conclusions. Yet, we cannot live forward without that cluttered mind with its useful and essential information and also all its unhelpful/wrong ideas, biases, prejudices, and expectations.

In addition, we develop our own values; at least we should, if we devote any time to this task. We tend to cling to those values, even if shown to be unhelpful or harmful.

We think we act rationally, always. Do we? Is it possible to be so, always?

We think we are wise. Are we? Are we just being clever?

To understand our lives backward, we obviously will and must use what we have learnt and remember about ourselves and about the world around us. Can we truly understand the world around us and ourselves as they truly are, and not what we perceive them to be?

To understand the world, we have to observe it both from the inside – from being in “it” and also observing from outside. By this criterion, we just cannot know the world for sure and fully, because it is impossible to be outside of the world to observe it. The images of the world taken from satellites are just images and that too from inside the cosmos. We cannot have a complete understanding of this world because of this absolute reality.

We have some sense of the world from being inside of it, our lived experience, of being a human. There are as many experiences as there are living organisms with a nervous system and a sense of awareness. Those experiences are colored by the nature of the species and their way of life, and their niche in the web. As pointed out by Prof. Nagel, how can we know what it feels like to be a bat – living upside down in dark caves, unless we can get inside of them?

Our perceptions are colored by many factors such as nation of origin and its geography, language, customs, religion, economics, and status in society. These perceptions are further colored by individual experiences in life. They are colored by reason and emotion. They change throughout life as they should. We cannot, therefore, have a complete understanding of ourselves either.

It appears to me that to understand life and this world as they are, we must reflect from a child’s point of view. In other words, let me imagine myself as a 3- or 4-year-old. How would I have looked at the world and myself without a cluttered mind? This is what the Buddhist scholars call the “innocent mind”.

I am looking at the people, the plants, the animals, the sun and the moon and the stars for the first time. No one told me what they are, and if they did, it did not register. (This is the attitude of great poets. To me, Rishi Dirghatamas of Rg Veda is the best example)

With Innocence, I will wonder: “I have never seen this before. Have no prior experience. What is this? How did this come about?” In other words, my reaction is one of awe and mystery. My reaction is that of a newcomer, unbiased, full of curiosity, and of fear, without prior expectations or notions.

With Curiosity: “What is it? How can I find out? Will it hurt me if I go near? On the other hand, it may be useful to me, help me?” I approach cautiously because that is how I am made – to explore. If it harms me, I have learnt something. (At this stage I would not even know that I can get killed, because I do not know what death is)  I will remember and will not do it again. May be, I can eat it? May be, this person may become my friend? Unless I explore, how else can I find food or a friend?

With Trust, Faith and Hope: “At this stage I do not know what those words mean. But, if I get into trouble when I explore something, will there be someone (like my parents) to bail me out? Can I go to them to help, to give a hug and to protect me?” When I reach out to a thing I have seen before, will it behave the same way as it did before? Will my mother be there always, whenever I need help?

Thinking further on this issue, I get the feeling that I can trust Mother Nature to give us food and water and shelter, if I know my limitations; She will give me a hug and comfort me when I need. But Father Law (s) of Nature is strict. I can trust him also to strictly enforce the law. I will find out quickly if I disobey.

There lies the problem. When I am alone, I am good. When I become part of a “mob”, I tend to break this trust and get into trouble.

With a wide-eyed sense of awe: “Vow; what mysteries? these colors; these mountains; these rivers; the rainbow and the thunder; and the volcanoes and earthquakes. How did they come about? Did I behave badly? Will they go away and come back?”

I do not know whether I make sense even to myself. But am going wherever my mind and my heart take and putting them in words, a poor substitute.

If I cannot reach that state of the child’s mind - the innocent mind – I can practice daily meditation with a sense of Innocence, Curiosity, Faith and Hope of a child’s mind and with Humility, Open Mind, Loving Kindness and Compassion which I learnt later in life.

Let me close this year with the following message: May you be well; may you be safe; may you be free from suffering; may you lead a life of sharing knowledge and wealth, and may you lead a life of Harmony with the external world and Peace with the internal light.  




Friday, December 24, 2021

Civilization advances

Viewed from a historical perspective, humanity seems to have passed through periods in which a dominant mode of thinking and force(s) behind it have determined people’s way of life – beliefs, customs, laws, and living conditions.

It probably started with fear of nature’s mysteries such as cycles of sun and the moon, season, rain, and drought, and natural disasters and death itself. Magical thinking dominated. Shamans were the leaders.

Then came the early philosophers who went beyond magical thinking, started using observation and reason to study nature and its laws. Warriors and local rulers were the leaders. Thinkers provided ideas.

Some went beyond such observation of external phenomena and looked deeply into man himself, his thinking, and his relationship to nature. They were the seers and wise ones and the spiritualists. But they did not have many followers.

Religions started appearing in many parts of the world with rigid dogmas, belief systems and rules of conduct, and organizational structure. Religious heads were the leaders, often in conjunction with powerful warrior-kings. Individual thinking was not favored and was even punished.

After many centuries, a few bold thinkers, and reformers, questioned the authority of religious institutions and local monarchs and defied them. Thus came a period of observation, empiricism, and reasoning as drivers of knowledge in understanding nature. Scientific mode of thinking combined with the release of individual initiative, academic freedom and reward for success dominated civilization for a few centuries. Democracies started and flourished. Innovations of science and technology enriched the lives of many people and reduced poverty and eliminated many diseases.

It is too bad I had to put science in the past tense. The reality is that we seem to be living in an era when both science and religion are questioned, if not denied. Everything seems to be driven by politics and politicians – even science and religion. Individual variations are not tolerated. Academic freedom is disappearing even in US. Authoritarianism in some form or other is emerging all over the world. Civil discourse is disappearing. False and mis-information demand equal attention and same respect as truth. Legal documents seem to be more important than moral and ethical values.

This does not bode well for humanity.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Satyam, Asatyam and Mithya

 I have written about my understanding of satya and mithya – which I translate in English into Truth and Relative Truth – in several posts in the past. In the present post, I wish to go a little deeper. The stimulus for this attempt is my recent reading for the nth time of Kanchi Periyaval’s lectures.

The word mithya was introduced by Adi Sankara. He acknowledged Truth as Absolute Truth (satyam) and its opposite asatyam, non-existent truth, which is obviously untruth, a lie. He compares asatyam to a horse’s horn, which, of course, does not exist.

Adi Sankara divides Truth into three varieties. One is the absolute truth, eternal, ever-present  satyam. Then comes relative truth or phenomenal truth, true from one point of view and not true from another point of view. This is vyavaharika satyam. The root word vyavahara captures the essence since this point of view is necessary for day-to-day transactions (vyavahara) in this world.

The third variety is called pratibhasika satyam by Adi Sankara. In English, let me call it Reflected Truth or a Mirage. The example given by Sankara is the way a piece of metal may look like a coin when light reflects off it at a particular angle. When approached closer the coin disappears but the metal which was the base for the misunderstanding remains. The other example is a piece of rope mistaken for a snake in darkness. Once a light is brought in, the snake “disappears”and the root cause of that false impression is left behind.

Satyam is True always. Vyavaharika satyam and pratibhasika satyam appear to be true and disappear when the basis of their relative truth is realized. These two categories are referred to as mithya by Adi Sankara. Asatyam is not true ever. 

The false impression due to Vyavaharika satyam is cleared when the permanence behind the ever-changing is recognized. The false impression due to pratibhasika satyam is cleared when one obtains true knowledge or attains gnana. In both these situations, the absolute truth is the basis (aadhara) for whatever appears to be true to our perception due to our projecting or hoisting (aarobhyam) something else on it.

The mechanism behind this mistaken belief due to mithya is called maya by Adi Sankara. Maya is, of course, is an activity of Brahman if you believe in Nirguna Brahman with no form.  If your belief system suggests Saguna Brahman with a form and a name called Iswara, the word lila is used instead of maya.

(If anyone finds errors in my understanding, please feel free to suggest corrections)

 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Reading Skills for Pleasure and Benefits - 7

(This is the final section of this series on Reading Skills) 

When I read about ancient Indian literature in Sanskrit and Tamizh, I try and read the original and use a standard classic dictionary, a dictionary of synonyms and other aids. My habit is to look up in the dictionary for even words I know, because the context in which we use the word currently might not have been the same in the past. In other words, the meaning might have been different. For example, the word veguli in Tamizh means an innocent, ignorant person, the way I have heard it used in conversations. But the word was used in the past to indicate “anger”. The word kolgai is used to mean one’s firm belief or doctrine. But it was used to mean “proper conduct” in Thirukkural (1019).

 

In addition, I like to read interpretation of these classics by both Indian scholars and scholars from other cultures. The best example is the interpretations of Rg Veda by Sri Aurobindo which is so different from those by foreign scholars. That should be no surprise. Outsiders see things locals do not see and vice versa. Differences in perspectives will be obvious.

 

I also like to read interpretations of Sanskrit literature in the English language and in Tamizh. Whenever such books are available, I encourage you to read them. The best example for me is the translation of Bhagavat Gita by Kavignar Kannadasan in Tamizh and in Marathi by Bal Gangadhar Tilak (translated into English by Balchandhra S.Sukthankar).

 

One more important point I learnt by reading several world classics in various languages translated into English is that some translators go for the meaning of sentences whereas others try to translate word for word. Both have value. It depends on what we want to do with the information. As already mentioned, the best example for me was when I was trying to compile all the conversations in Maha Bharatha. By reading critiques of various translations, I learnt that the translation by Prof. Ganguli is considered the best for word-by-word and stanza-by-stanza meanings.

 

When I was reviewing to make sure I put down in writing all the methods I have used in the past, I remembered one other item. I give a good glance at any book review I notice anywhere, if the title looks interesting. This is one filter I use to decide on which books I wish to buy and read and which ones I wish to get from a library.

 

When I am reading a book or essay, if I find reference to another article which is the source for the current author or appears to be interesting, I will find a source on the internet to look at it briefly. That has led me to several important books and articles.

 

One of the best recent examples is a reference to a Thanksgiving Prayer from the Iroquois Nations. This reference was in a book by  Ms.Robin Kimmerer with the title “Braiding Sweetgrass”. When I found that prayer, I found how profound that Prayer is and how similar it is to some of the Vedic prayers to the sun, the wind and the fire. In addition, I learnt that the charter which the Iroquois Nations developed to bind the warring tribes was a model for the federation of the original 13 colonies of the United States. Even more interesting was when I traced it back to Hiawatha who had a part to play in the 1500’s in bringing these original five (later 6) factions together.

 

One other recent example is a reference to a Sanskrit prayer called Shiva Mahimna Stotra by Pushpadanta. When I read that original in Sanskrit I found that this Stotra is the source for the well-known statement about the Vedic religion: “ Just as the sea is the final resting place for all streams of water, You are the final place to be reached for all people whatever path they choose and however straight or zigzag that path may be” (Sloka 7)

 

I have an annoying habit of scribbling along the margin or underline or highlight the text. (I must add that I do this only in books I bought. I also tend to buy books in which I may be tempted to make notes) It may be annoying to the next reader of the book. But I find it helpful when I decide to re-read the book or look for specific ideas and quotes from that book. It may also be helpful to someone who does not want to read the entire book but is looking for a glimpse of ideas. He or she can just read the underlined areas. True, it will be my personal bias. Therefore, it is better to read the entire book for oneself or get an unmarked book to read.

 

Let me finish with a quite from Albert Einstein: “Let every man judge according to his own standards, by what he has himself read, not by what others tell him”. He was writing about an author who was criticized for his views by those who had not read him or understood him. This statement resonates with me because it emphasizes both the need to read the original papers (or books) ourselves and to think on our own.

 

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on reading. Hope you found some useful idea (s) for your personal use.