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321. Srinivas Ramanujan (1887-1920) is one of India's legendary intellectual heroes, hailed as one of the greatest Mathematician of India and compared to all time greats, Euler, Gauss and Jacobi, for natural genius, is an eternal source of inspiration, especially for the student of mathematics. Today's mathematicians --armed with supercomputers -- are still star-struck, and unable to solve many theorems the slate-scribbling mathematician, too poor for paper, erasing his errors with one elbow young man from India. Ramanujan spawned a zoo of mathematical creatures that delight, confound and humble his peers. They call them "beautiful," "humble," "transcendent," and marvel how he reduced very complex terrain to simple shapes. G H Hardy, brightest mathematician in England, later wrote: "A single look at them is enough to show that they could only be written down by a mathematician of the highest class. They must be true, for if they were not true, no one would have the imagination to invent them."

Ramanujan was a mathematician so great his name transcends jealousies, the one superlatively great mathematician whom India has produced in the last hundred years. "His leaps of intuition confound mathematicians even today, seven decades after his death. ..the brilliant, self-taught Indian mathematician whose work contains some of the most beautiful ideas in the history of science. His legacy has endured. His twenty-one major mathematical papers are still being plumbed for their secrets, and many of his ideas are used today in cosmology and computer science. His theorems are being applied in areas - polymer chemistry, computers, cancer research - scarcely imaginable during his lifetime. His mathematical insights yet leave mathematicians baffled that anyone could divine them in the first place.'

A mathematical genius who ascribed his brilliance to a personal relationship with a Hindu Goddess. He saw the divine in the dance of numbers. 

The inexhaustible Ramanujan was an observant Hindu, adept at dream interpretation and astrology. His work was marked by bold leaps and gut feelings. Growing up he had learned to worship Namagiri, the consort of the lion god Narasimha. Ramanujan believed that he existed to serve as Namagiri´s champion - Hindu Goddess of creativity.  In real life Ramanujan told people that Namagiri visited him in his dreams and wrote equations on his tongue.

Ramanujan could never explain to G H Hardy how he arrived at his deep insights in mathematical terms; but he did say many of his discoveries came to him in dreams, from the goddess Namakkal, and that he had a morning ritual of awakening and writing them down.

He was intensely religious. He often united mathematics and spirituality together. He felt, for example, that zero represented Absolute Reality, and that infinity represented the many manifestations of that Reality. Ramanujan felt that each mathematical discovery was a step closer to understanding the spiritual universe. He once told a friend, "An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God."

While growing up, he lived the life of a traditional Brahmin with his forehead shaved and wearing a topknot. He often prayed to his family Deity, the Goddess Namagiri of Namakkal, and followed Her advice. Namakkal is also called as "Namagiri". He pilgrimaged all over Tamil Nadu. He quoted the Vedas, interpreted dreams and was regarded by his friends to be a mystic. Throughout his life, Ramanujan worshiped at the Sarangapani Vishnu temple in Kumbakonam. 

(source: Ramanujan and Computing the Mathematical face of God) (source: Hit Play on Ramanujan and A Baffling Mind - By Iraja Sivadas - Hinduism Today Oct/Nov/December 2003 p. 60 -62). 

Mathematicians have mined his theorems ever since. They've figured out how to prove them. They've put them to use. Only recently, a lost bundle of his notebooks turned up in a Cambridge library. That set mathematics off on a whole new voyage of discovery. And where did all this unproven truth come from? Ramanujan was quick to tell us. He simply prayed to Sarasvathi, the Goddess of Learning, and she informed him. The unsettling thing is, none of us can find any better way to explain the magnitude of his eerie brilliance.

(source: http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi495.htm John H. Lienhard
and The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan - by Robert Kanigel).

He wasn't spiritually preoccupied, but he was steeped in the reality and beneficence of the Deities, especially the Goddess Namagiri. Math, of course, was his intellectual and spiritual touchstone. No one really knows how early in life Ramanujan awakened to the psychic visitations of Namagiri, much less how the interpenetration of his mind and the Goddess' worked.

(source: Computing the Mathematical Face of God: S. Ramanujan). (Unlike most other major religions, Hindu myth and theology contain ancient and deep mathematical threads, with particular accomplishments in Number Theory and a joyous spontaneity about huge numbers. An Indian stamp issued in 1962 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Ramanujan's birth).

322Georges Ifrah ( ?   )  French historian of Mathematics and author of the book, The Universal History of Numbers

"The Indian mind has always had for calculations and the handling of numbers an extraordinary inclination, ease and power, such as no other civilization in history ever possessed to the same degree. So much so that Indian culture regarded the science of numbers as the noblest of its arts...A thousand years ahead of Europeans, Indian savants knew that the zero and infinity were mutually inverse notions."

(source: Histoire Universelle des Chiffres - By Georges Ifrah  Paris - Robert Laffont, 1994, volume 2.  p. 3 ).

Claiming India to be the true birthplace of our numerals, Ifrah salutes the Indian researchers saying that the "...real inventors of this fundamental discovery, which is no less important than such feats as the mastery of fire, the development of agriculture, or the invention of the wheel, writing or the steam engine, were the mathematicians and astronomers of the Indian civilization: scholars who, unlike the Greeks, were concerned with practical applications and who were motivated by a kind of passion for both numbers and numerical calculations."

He refers to 24 evidences from scriptures from India, whose dates range from 1150 BC until 458 BC. Of particular interest is the work by Indian mathematician Bhaskaracharya known as Bhaskara (1150 BC) where he makes a reference to zero and the place-value system were invented by the god Brahma. In other words,  these notions were so well established in Indian thought and tradition that at this time they were considered to have always been used by humans, and thus to have constituted a "revelation" of the divinities.

"It was only after the eighth century BC, and doubtless due to the influence of the Indian Buddhist missionaries, that Chinese mathematicians introduced the use of zero in the form of a little circle or dot (signs that originated in India),...".

The early passion which Indian civilization had for high numbers was a significant factor contributing to the discovery of the place-value system, and not only offered the Indians the incentive to go beyond the "calculable" physical world, but also led to an understanding (much earlier than in our civilization) of the notion of mathematical infinity itself.

“The real inventors of [the numeral system], which is no less important than such feats as the mastery of fire, the development of agriculture, or the invention of the wheel, writing or the steam engine, were the mathematicians and astronomers of Indian civilization: scholars who, unlike the Greeks, were concerned with practical applications and who were motivated by a kind of passion for both numbers and numerical calculations.”

Sanskrit notation had an excellent conceptual quality. It was easy to use and moreover it facilitated the conception of the highest imaginable numbers. This is why it was so well suited to the most exuberant numerical or arithmetical-cosmogonic speculations of Indian culture."

"The Indian people were the only civilization to take the decisive step towards the perfection of numerical notation. We owe the discovery of modern numeration and the elaboration of the very foundations of written calculations to India alone."

"It is clear how much we owe to this brilliant civilization, and not only in the field of arithmetic; by opening the way to the generalization of the concept of the number, the Indian scholars enabled the rapid development of mathematics and exact sciences. The discoveries of these men doubtless required much time and imagination, and above all a great ability for abstract thinking. These major discoveries took place within an environment which was at once mystical, philosophical, religious, cosmological, mythological and metaphysical."

"In India, an aptitude for the study of numbers and arithmetical research was often combined with a surprising tendency towards metaphysical abstractions; in fact, the latter is so deeply ingrained in Indian thought and tradition that one meets it in all fields of study, from the most advanced mathematical ideas to disciplines completely unrelated to 'exact sciences. 

In short, Indian science was born out of a mystical and religious culture and the etymology of the Sanskrit words used to describe numbers and the science of numbers bears witness to this fact. "

"Sanskrit means “complete”, “perfect” and “definitive”. In fact, this language is extremely elaborate, almost artificial, and is capable of describing multiple levels of meditation, states of consciousness and psychic, spiritual and even intellectual processes. As for vocabulary, its richness is considerable and highly diversified. Sanskrit has for centuries lent itself admirably to the diverse rules of prosody and versification. Thus we can see why poetry has played such a preponderant role in all of Indian culture and Sanskrit literature. "

(source:  The Universal History of Numbers - By Georges Ifrah  p 365 - 441). For more refer to chapter on GlimpsesIX and Hindu Culture1).

323. Sir Lepel Henry Griffin (1840-1908) Knight Indian Civil Servant. President, East India Association and the diplomatic representative at Kabul of the Indian government. Author of several books including The Rajas of the Punjab; being the history of the principal states in the Punjab and their political relations with the British government and The Great Republic.  At a a meeting of the East India Association held at the Westminister Palace Hotel, London in December, 1901, he reported as paying the following tribute to Indian morality:

"The Hindu creed is monotheistic and of very high ethical value; and when I look back on my life in India and the thousands of good friends I have left there among all classes of the native community, when I remember those honorable, industrious, orderly, law-abiding, sober, manly men, I look over England and wonder whether there is anything in Christianity which can give a higher ethical creed than that which is now professed by the large majority of the people of India. I do not see it in London society, I do not see it in the slums of the East End, I do not see it on the London Stock Exchange. I think that the morality of India will compare very favorably with the morality of any country in Western Europe."

(source: India in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom - By Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland p. 329 - 330).

324. Dr. Radhakumud Mookerji (1884 -1964) distinguished historian and author of several books including Hindu civilization (from the earliest times up to the establishment of Maurya empire), Ancient Indian education; Brahmanical and Buddhist and Indian shipping: a history of the seaborne trade and maritime activity of the Indians from the earliest times. He writes:

"The first point of distinction is that the Vedas and especially the primordial work known as the Rig Veda, represents not merely the dawn of culture, but also its zenith. Indian thought is seen at its highest in the Rig Veda. ...On the one hand it is the first book of India and also of mankind. At the same time it shows the highest point of human wisdom. We see in it the whole process of evolution from its beginning to the completion."

(source: The Call of the Vedas - By A C Bose p. 16).

"For full thirty centuries India stood out as the very heart of the old world and maintained her position as one of the foremost maritime countries. She had colonies in Pegu, in Cambodia, in Java in Sumatra, in Borneo and even in the countries of the Farther East as far as Japan. She had trading settlements in Southern China, in the Malayan Peninsula, in Arabia and in all the chief cities of Persia and all over the East Coast of Africa. She cultivated trade relations not only with the countries of Asia, but with the whole of the then known world, including the countries under the dominion of the Roman Empire, and both the East and West became the theatre of Indian commercial activity and gave scope of her naval energy and throbbing international life."

"We now know that many ports on both Eastern and Western Coast had navigational and trade links with almost all Continents of the world. There are many natural and technological reasons for this. Apart from Mathematics and Astronomy, India had excellent manufacturing skills in textile, metal works and paints. India had abundant supply of Timber. Indian - built ships were superior as they were built of Teak which resists the effect of salt water and weather for a very long time."

(source: Indian Shipping: A History of the Sea-Borne Trade and Maritime Activity of the Indians From the Earliest Times - By R. K. Mookerjee  p. 4). For more refer to chapters Seafaring in Ancient India and Suvarnabhumi).

325. Diana L. Eck  (  ?  ) Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard University. Her work on India includes the books Banaras, City of Light and Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India.

"Hinduism is an imaginative, an "image-making, religious tradition in which the sacred is seen  as present in the visible world – the world we see in multiple images and deities, in sacred places, and in people. The notion of darsan call attention as students of Hinduism, to the fact that India is a visual and visionary culture, one in which the eyes have a prominent role in the apprehension of the sacred. For most ordinary Hindus, the notion of the divine as "invisible" would be foreign indeed. God is eminently visible, although human beings have not always had the refinement of sight to see. Furthermore, the divine is visible not only in temple and shrine, but also in the whole continuum of life – in nature, in people, in birth and growth and death. Although some Hindus, both philosophers and radical reformers, have always used the terms "nirguna"(qualityless) and nirakara (formless) to speak of the One Brahman. Yet the same tradition has simultaneously affirmed that Brahman is also saguna (with qualities) and that the multitude of "names and forms" of this world are the exuberant transformations of the One Brahman."

"India presents to the visitor an overwhelmingly visual impression. It is beautiful, colorful, sensuous. It is captivating and intriguing, repugnant and puzzling. It combines the intimacy and familiarity of English four o’clock tea with the dazzling foreignness of carpisoned elephants or vast crowds bathing in the Ganga during an eclipse. India’s displays of multi-armed images, its processions and its pilgrimages, its beggars and its kings, its street life and markets, its diversity of people – all appear to the eye in a kaleidoscope of images. Whatever Hindus affirm of the meaning of life, death, and suffering, they affirm with their eyes wide open. Many westerners, for example, upon seeing Hindu rituals observances for the first time, are impressed with how sensuous Hindu worship is. It is sensuous in that it makes full use of the senses – seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and hearing. One "sees" the image of the deity (darsan). One "touches" it with one’s hands (sparsa), and one also "touches" the limbs of one’s own body to establish the presence of various deities (nyasa). One "hears" the sacred sound of the mantras (sravana). The ringing of bells, the offering of oil lamps, the presentation of flowers, the pouring of water and milk, the sipping of sanctified liquid offerings, the eating of consecrated foods- prasad – these are the basic constituents of Hindu worship, Puja." For all its famous otherworldliness, India is a culture that has also celebrated the life of this world and the realms of the senses.

(source: Darsan - Seeing the Divine Image in India - By Diana L Eck  Anima Books. Page 10 - 12).

 

Benares: It antiquity has caught the imagination of many.

(image source: Painting of Benares - By William Hodges - 1780 - Indian Art - By Vidya Dehejia p. 384).

***

She has written about the city of Banaras

"It was an awesome city - captivating, challenging, and endlessly fascinating - Banaras raised some of the questions about the Hindu tradition which have interested me ever since - its complex mythological imagination, its prodigious display of divine images, its elaborate ritual traditions, and its understanding of the relation of life and death. It was Banaras that turned me to the study of India and the Hindu religious tradition."

"For over 2,500 years this city, also called Varanasi, has attracted pilgrims and seekers from all over India. Sages, such as the Buddha, Mahavira, and Shankara, have come here to teach. Young men have come to study the Vedas with the city's great pandits. Banaras is one of the oldest living cities of the world....It occupied its high bank overlooking the Ganga in the cradle days of Western civilization. It antiquity has caught the imagination of many, including Mark Twain. There are few great cities in the world which have converted the energy of an entire civilization into culture and have come to symbolize and embody that whole civilization in microcosm." "It sits above the earth as a "crossing place" (tirtha) between this world and the "far shore" of the transcendent Brahman."

(source: Banaras: City of Light - By Diana L Eck  p. 3 - 5).

326Ramana Maharishi of Arunachala (1870 -1950). A great sage, Kavyakanta Ganapathi Muni, called him Bhagavan or God for he regarded him as the incarnation of Skanda or Subramania, and named him Ramana, the sweet one, and Maharshi, the great sage. At the age of sixteen Ramana Maharshi left his home, his family, and all he knew. He felt drawn to Arunachula - a small mountain in Southern India. Here he lived for the rest of his life. His only possessions were a piece of cloth to cover himself, and a walking stick.

In his famous discussion of "The Holy Men of India, Carl Jung described Ramana Maharishi as "the whitest spot on a white surface," less a unique phenomenon than the perfect "embodiment of spiritual India. In Ramana Maharishi Jung finds "purest India, the breadth of eternity, scorning and scorned by the world. Jung correctly recognized that Ramana Maharishi typifies the holy men of India who for centuries have drowned "the world of multiplicity in the All and All-Oness of Universal Being." 

F. H. Humphreys, a British Officer of the Indian Police Service, who was an earnest student of religion, once visited Ramana Maharishi in 1911 in his Ashrama, when he was curious to learn about siddhis from the saint. Ramana said:

"Do not think too much of psychical phenomena...The phenomena we see are curious and surprising, but the most marvelous of all we do not realize, namely, the one illimitable force alone is responsible for all the phenomena we see and for the act of seeing them. Do not fix your attention on the changing things of life, death and phenomena. Do not think of even the actual act of seeing or perceiving them, but only of that which sees all these things - That which is responsible for it all. It is inside yourself."

In a letter to a leading friend in London, which was subsequently published in a leading journal in London, Mr. Humphreys wrote about Ramana: "On reaching the cave, we sat before him at his feet and said nothing. We sat thus for a long time and I felt lifted out of myself. For half an hour I looked into Maharishi's eyes, which never changed their expression of deep contemplation. I began to realize somewhat that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost."

Ramana Maharishi's grace and compassion touched man and animal alike; his eloquent silence made a tremendous impact.  But his silence was more eloquent than a thousand words spoken. F. H. Humphreys, the first European visitor to the Ramanashram penned his experience, of seeing Ramana Maharishi, to a friend in London. "For half an hour I looked into the Maharishi's eyes, which never changed their expression of deep contemplation. I could feel only that his body was not the man: it was the instrument of God." But Humphreys was neither the first nor the last to experience God in the form of Ramana Maharishi. Paul Brunton, who arrived at Tiruvannamalai more a sceptic than a believer records the impact of the eloquent silence of Maharishi: "Before those (eyes) of the Maharishi, I hesitate, puzzled and baffled ... I cannot turn my gaze away from him. I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me ... "

Ramana Maharishi believed in the philosophy of self-realization based on Advaita Vedanta. Sri Ramana's entire system is based on his own realization of Self. He wrote:

"When I came to realize who I am
What else is this identity of mine.
But then,
Oh Thou who standest as the towering Aruna Hill?"

(source: The Sage of Arunachala - By Lakshmi Devnath and Great Indian Saints - By Pranab Bandyopadhyaya p. 328 - 327 and The Spirit of Modern India - Edited by Robert A McDermont and V. S. Naravane p. 197).

327. Robert Blackwill (   ?  ) lecturer on international security at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government,  former ambassador to India. Blackwill is the author and co-editor of numerous books and articles on U.S. foreign policy, including: America’s Asian Alliances. Although he returned this summer, part of Blackwill's heart is clearly still in India. A huge map of "Mother India" adorns the cream-colored walls of his fastidious office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The only item on his vast desktop -- besides precisely arranged wooden "in" and "out" boxes -- is a tiny figurine of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed god of wisdom and success.  In What India means to me, he says:

"......India's innumerable and distinctive dances, beginning with the classical. The Vedas and the Upanishads

They mean so much more when I read them here: "It is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of speech, the breath of breath, and the eye of the eye. When freed (from the senses) the wise, on departing from this world, become immortal."

And, despite my continuing contemplations, I am not always able to follow Krishna's wise words, "Be thou of even mind."

But, my friends, these terrorist outrages against my country and against yours will not continue indefinitely. We know this from the Ramayana, and many other holy books. Good does triumph over evil, although it sometimes takes more time than we would like. Someone once said, "the most sublime purpose of religion is to teach how to know God." India has been working on that challenge from a variety of perspectives for several millennia. It has been my immense privilege during these two years to experience, and to profit from, these profound wellsprings of Indian spirituality.

I will return to India. How could it be otherwise? Mother India has changed my life -- forever."

(source: What India Means to Me - By Ambassador Robert Blackwill - usembassy.state.gov and washingtonpost.com).

328. J A B Van Buitenen (1928- 1979) says that the Bhagavad Gita is:

"The most important text for Hindu religion and a recent survey of that religion says that during the last thousand years the Gita's "popularity and authority" have been "unrivalled."

(source: The Mahabharata - By J A B Van Buitenen  p. xxviii 1973).

329. Shashi Tharoor (1956 -  ) Under-Secretary-General for Public Information at the UN, author of six novels and two non-fiction books. Educated in India and London, describes himself as a `believing Hindu'.  He has written:

" Every other religion lays down certain fixed dogmas and tries to force society to adopt them. It places before society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all alike. If it does not fit John or Henry, he must go without a coat to cover his body. "

"The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realized, or thought of, or stated through the relative, and the images, crosses, and crescents are simply so many symbols — so many pegs to hang spiritual ideas on. It is not that this help is necessary for everyone, but those that do not need it have no right to say that it is wrong. Nor is it compulsory in Hinduism .... The Hindus have their faults, but mark this, they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbors. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he never lights the fire of Inquisition. "

The wonderful doctrine preached in the Bhagavad Gita says: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me."

(source: ShashiTharoor.com).

 

Lord Krishna says:  "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." 

(source: Bhagavad Gita).

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

***

"The Rig Veda asserted that gravitation held the universe together 24 centuries before the apple fell on Newton's head. The Vedic civilization subscribed to the idea of a spherical earth at a time when everyone else, even the Greeks, assumed the earth was flat. By the Fifth Century A.D. Indians had calculated that the age of the earth was 4.3 billion years; as late as the 19th Century, English scientists believed the earth was a hundred million years old, and it is only in the late 20th Century that Western scientists have come to estimate the earth to be about 4.6 billion years old. It was an Indian who first conceived of the zero, shunya; the concept of nothingness, shunyata, integral to Hindu and Buddhist thinking, simply did not exist in the West. The Vedanga Jyotisha, written around 500 B.C., declares: "Like the crest of a peacock, like the gem on the head of a snake, so is mathematics at the head of all knowledge." Our mathematicians were poets too!

(source: Why Indian science scores - The Hindu - Sunday June 8 2003).

"I am proud to claim adherence to a religion without an established church or priestly papacy, a religion whose rituals and customs I am free to reject, a religion that does not oblige me to demonstrate my faith by any visible sign, by subsuming my identity in any collectivity, not even by a specific day or time or frequency of worship. (There is no Hindu Pope, no Hindu Vatican, no Hindu catechism, not even a Hindu Sunday.) As a Hindu I am proud to subscribe to a creed that is free of the restrictive dogmas of holy writ that refuses to be shackled to the limitations of a single holy book."

(source: ShashiTharoor.com).

330. Alfred B. Ford (     )  aka Ambarish Das  grandson of Henry Ford (founder of the Ford Motor), and Trustee member of Ford Motor Company. He is involved in Ford's corporate charity work.

Throwing light on his personal association with India, Ford said he was attracted to Indian civilization after he studied Hinduism during his college days 30 years ago.

Soon after, he converted to Hinduism and has traveled to India dozens of times. He even married an Indian girl, Sharmila Bhattacharya, a doctor, who hails from Jaipur.

He joined Iskcon in 1975. He traveled to India for the first time  that same year with Srila Prabhupada. He was instrumental in the  establishment of the first Hindu temple in Hawaii. He also helped establish  the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center, which is a highly regarded tourist destination in Detroit. Alfred has made significant donations to Iskcon  over the years which have assisted many ongoing projects and helped to  build the Pushpa Samadhi Mandir of Srila Prabhupada. He is the  founding chairman of the Iskcon Foundation, and campaign chairman of the  Sri Mayapur Temple of Vedic Planetarium. 

The love for Hinduism brought a great grandson of US automobile legend Henry Ford to the Russian capital to lobby for a Vedic cultural centre. 

"If Moscow wants to be a world class capital, it has to open up to other cultures, particularly ancient cultures like Vedic culture."

Ford, during a visit to Moscow last week, said: "For me the most important thing is to spread the Hindu knowledge about the soul. This is more important than any other knowledge and is my main priority". 

Russia has an estimated 90,000 Russian Hindus, sources at International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) here claim. Addressing representatives of the Indian community in Russia, Ford lauded their efforts to build the cultural centre complex that would be named "Glory of India".

He has said: "My main activity is connected with propagandizing Indian culture throughout the world.' The Alfred Ford Foundation and the Indian community are financing construction of the center."

(source: Alfred Ford lobbies for Vedic centre in Moscow - siliconindia.com and Indian Cultural Centre to be built in Moscow - russsiajournal.com and hindu.com and hindunet.com).  

331. Arthur William Ryder (1877-1938) Professor at Berkeley. J Robert Oppenheimer the nuclear physicist had studied Sanskrit with him at Berkeley in 1933. He has translated several books including, Dandin's Dasha-kumara-charita : The ten princes.

He wrote in his introduction to the Bhagavad Gita:

"Uncounted millions have drawn from it comfort and joy. In it they have found an end to perplexity, a clear, if difficult, road to salvation."

(source: The Bhagavad Gita - translation by Arthur W Ryder p. viii).

One of Kalidasa's long poems is the Meghduta, or the Cloud Messenger.  A lover, made captive and separated from his beloved, asks a cloud, during the rainy season, to carry his message of desperate longing to her. To this poem and to Kalidasa, the American scholar, Ryder, has paid a splendid tribute. He refers to the two parts of the poem and says:
  
" The former half is a description of external nature, yet interwoven with human feelings; the latter half is a picture of human heart, yet the picture is framed in natural beauty. So exquisitely is the thing done that none can say which half is superior. Of those who read this perfect poem in the original text, some are moved by the one, some by the other." 

(source: 
The Discovery of India - by Jawaharlal Nehru pg 159).

332.Takeo Kamiya (     )  Japanese architect has spent about 20 years and all his savings traveling across India documenting the country's heritage buildings to enlighten Japan and the world about the "wonders of real India". He is a member of the Japan Architects Academy. Kamiya first visited India about 27 years ago and travelled across the country, like Hieun Tsang during the Golden Age of Guptas. When he was young, Japan was oriented only to the West and America. But he had a feeling that the world did not end there. 

 He says:

"The first place I visited was the Konark Sun Temple. I was shocked...awestruck at the site of the marvelous man-made wonder, "all my worries and complaints vanished then and there."

"That intense emotional experience made me come back again and again. It gave me the urge to travel and see as much as I could. It is after this that I concretized the idea of documenting my experiences in a book form," 

 

Konark Sun Temple:  A place of golden grandeur. One of India's great architectural marvels, this temple to the Sun God, Surya was conceived as a gigantic chariot with 12 pairs of wheels to carry the Sun on his daily journey across the sky. There are seven temples dedicated to the worship of Surya, the Sun in India.  Konark is now a Unesco world heritage site. The world's finest Hindu Sun temple is also one of India's most innovative architectural masterpieces.

(image source: Hinduism Today Oct/Nov/December 2003).

For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

***

The result: The Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, a comprehensive classification and introduction of Indian architecture from north to the south. A complete guide, which has been a revelation for even several leading Indian architects. 

"India had always fascinated me, though I had only little knowledge about the country where Buddha was born. There was hardly any literature available on Indian architecture while I was studying in the Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku (Fine Arts faculty in Architecture). So I decided to travel to India to study about the country, its culture and heritage,"

(source: Japanese guide to Indian wonders - timesofindia.com). For more refer to chapter on Hindu Art).

333. Bulent Ecevit (1925 - ) the then Turkish prime minister, was asked what had given him the courage to send Turkish troops to Cyprus (where they still remain). His answer: he was fortified by the Bhagavad Gita which taught that if one were morally right, one need not hesitate to fight injustice. Besides the Gita, Ecevit was also influenced by Nehru’s Glimpses of World History.

Ecevit first learnt Sanskrit at the Ankara University. Later his love for poetry and philosophy led him to Rabindranath Tagore. He learnt Bengali to appreciate and later translate Tagore’s writings, including some poems from Geetanjali. During his visit to India in early 2000, Ecevit fulfilled his dream of visiting Shantiniketan. After the 1971 military crackdown by the left, the Upanishads, Gita, and Geetanjali were banned in Turkey.

Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit's passage to India has far greater significance than that of an Indophile scholar-statesman realising his long cherished dream. Mr Ecevit, had translated Tagore's Gitanjali and the Bhagavad Gita into Turkish. Together with Delhi and Agra, he has included a visit to Shantniketan in his itinerary.

(source: The Turk who loves the Gita telegraphindia.com).

334Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) American linguist and author of Language, published in 1933) characterization of Panini's Astadhyayi  (The Eight Books) writes:

"as one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence is by no means an exaggeration; no one who has had even a small acquaintance with that most remarkable book could fail to agree. In some four thousand sutras or aphorisms - some of them no more than a single syllable in length - Panini sums up the grammar not only of his own spoken language, but of that of the Vedic period as well. The work is the more remarkable when we consider that the author did not write it down but rather worked it all out of his head, as it were. Panini's disciples committed the work to memory and in turn passed it on in the same manner to their disciples; and though the Astadhayayi has long since been committed to writing, rote memorization of the work, with several of the more important commentaries, is still the approved method of studying grammar in India today, as indeed is true of most learning of the traditional culture."

While in the classical world scholars were dealing with language in a somewhat metaphysical way, the Indians were telling us what their language actually was, how it worked, and how it was put together. The methods and techniques for describing the structure of Sanskrit which we find in Panini have not been substantially bettered to this day in modern linguistic theory and practice. We today employ many devices in describing languages that were already known to Panini's first two commentators. The concept of "zero" which in mathematics is attributed to India, finds its place also in linguistics. 

"It was in India, however, that there rose a body of knowledge which was destined to revolutionize European ideas about language. The Hindu grammar taught Europeans to analyze speech forms; when one compared the constituent parts, the resemblances, which hitherto had been vaguely recognized, could be set forth with certainty and precision."

(source: Traditional India - edited by O. L. Chavarria-Aguilar refer to chapter on Grammar - By Leonard Bloomfield Hall - Place of Publication: Englewood Cliffs, NJ Date of Publication: 1964 p. 109-113).

335. Colonel Frank Smythe aka Francis Sydney Smythe (1900-1949) military leader, explorer, mountaineer, writer, photographer. He describes experiencing the same feeling of loneliness and revelation in the Bhyunder Ganga ValleyChronicle of the author's four months in the remote, difficult to reach Bhyundar Valley in the Himalayas, the spectacular Valley of Flowers. The credit for the popularising the Valley of Flowers generally goes to Frank S. Smythe and R.L. Holdsworth who incidentally reached this valley after a successful expedition of Mount Kamet in 1931.

"In my mountaineering wandering I have not seen a more beautiful valley than this ... this valley of peace and perfect beauty where the human spirit may find repose." Originally called the Bhiundhar Valley (after a village located in south-east Badrinath) it was renamed “The Valley of Flowers” by Frank Smythe.

He writes in his book Valley of Flowers:

“For the first time in my life I was able to think. I do not mean to think objectively or analytically, but rather to surrender thought to my surroundings. This is a power of which we know little in the West but which is a basic of abstract thought in the East. It is allowing the mind to receive rather than to seek impressions, and it is gained by expurgating extraneous thought. It is then that the Eternal speaks; that the mutations of the universe are apparent; the very atmosphere is filled with life and song; the hills are resolved from mere masses of snow, ice and rock into something living. When this happens the human mind escapes from the bondage of its own feeble imaginings and becomes as one with its Creator.” 

(source: Sacred Waters: A Pilgrimage up the Ganges River to the Source of Hindu Culture – Stephen Alter  p. 356).

336. Abu’l Hasan al-Qifti (  ? ) Arab scholar and author of Chronology of the Scholars, speaks of  Arab admiration for Indian place-value system and methods of calculation.

“Among those parts of their sciences which came to us, the numerical calculation….it is the swiftest and most complete method of calculation, the easiest to understand and the simplest to learn; it bears witness to the Indians’ piercing intellect, fine creativity and their superior understanding and inventive genius.”

(source:  The Universal History of Numbers - By Georges Ifrah   p. 530 - 531).

337. Christian Fabre aka Swami Pranavananda Brahmendra Avadhuta  (1942 -  ) was born in the south of France. He grew up in a family with ties to the garment industry. Author of Swami : PDG et Moine hindou

He is a Hindu holy man, who has renounced the material world - yet he is also a business tycoon who employs thousands of people. He became a Hindu holy man, or sadhu, some years ago. Now he runs an ashram, or a hermitage for holy men, in the south-western state of Tamil Nadu, roughly 400 kilometres from Madras, the state capital.

He came to work in India in the 1970s, and fell in love with the place. "I was so powerfully attracted to India's culture, faith and its people that I cannot bear the thought of going back to France," he says.

At the time, his house was opposite that of a Brahmin family. His first exposure to Hinduism came at their hands. A woman from that house introduced him to a Hindu sage, or swami.

Today, his company, Fashion International, has 35 factories which employ 60,000 people. The clothes they make are exported to Europe and beyond. And as his business boomed, Mr Fabre's faith grew stronger. He did not stop taking instruction from his teacher, or guru, and continued searching for answers to his questions. His guru eventually invited him to take up the sanyas - renounce all worldly attachments such as family and money, and focus on their search for enlightenment. Mr Fabre now lives in the ashram in the manner of the other sadhus in his holy order.

He also wears the sadhu's saffron robes to his business meetings.

For Mr Fabre, there is no opposition between his business interests and his life as a Hindu holy man. This industrialist holy man has been truly industrious - for the villagers living near his ashram, he has provided running water and improved public hygiene facilities.

(source: The French Hindu Holy businessman - BBC news.com).

338. Edward Gibbon (1734 - 1794) English historian and scholar, the supreme historian of the Enlightenment, who is best-known as the author of the monumental author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

He admiringly describes the religious freedom in Hinduism:

"Thus the Hindus have an extraordinary wide selection of beliefs and practices to choose from: they can be monotheists, pantheists, polytheists, agnostics or even atheists. They may follow a strict or a loose standard of moral conduct, or they may choose instead an amoral emotionalism or mysticism. They may worship regularly at a temple or may not go there at all."

The ancient Romans also had a similar form of worship like the Hindus  - "The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord. "

(source: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - By Edward Gibbon  p.  ).

339. Justice Manadagadde Rama Jois (1931 -  ) Former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court. A distinguished writer and historian, Justice M. Rama Jois has produced several authoritative books on Service Law, Habeas Corpus Law, Constitutional Law, etc., which are popular among the Law fraternity of India including students of Law. His most appreciated two-volume book Legal and Constitutional History of India is a textbook for Law Degree course. His another book Seeds of Modem Public Law in Ancient Indian Jurisprudence is also a much-valued contribution. A book authored by him Eternal Values in Manu Smriti, was released by former Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand. In this book valuable verses from "Manu Smriti" has been selected, which are still relevant to the society. 

He has observed that: "In India, religious leaders have never exercised any control over the political authority. The ancient Indian constitutional law, the Rajadharma, did not recognise the authority of religious leaders to interfere with the political power of the king. Religious leaders had a purely advisory role, tendering opinion when it was sought or suo motu on matters of public interest. There used to be a process of consultation, not of confrontation.

"This is why no Hindu king has ever persecuted anyone on the ground of religion. Thus, it is Clear that in the Indian context, secularism meant respect for all religions as distinct from mere tolerance of other religions. This respect is part and parcel of Hinduism, to which theocracy is unknown. In fact, they cannot co-exist any more than light and darkness."

(source: Conversion, fruit of intolerance - By Justice Manadagadde Rama Jois -  indianexpress.com).

340  Beatrice Pitney Lamb (1904 -   ) Author of several books including India: A World in Transition. She was Editor of the United Nations News for several years and has written and lectured extensively on Indian affairs. Beatrice Lamb first visited India in 1949 on an assignment for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mrs. Lamb saw the many-hued soul of India revealed through its people, living, working and worshipping.  

She has noted: 

"In addition to the still visible past glories of art and architecture, the wonderful ancient literature, and other cultural achievements of which educated Indians are justly proud, the Indian past includes another type of glory most tantalizing to the Indians of today - prolonged material prosperity. For well over a millennium and a half, the Indian subcontinent may have been the richest area in the world. As early as the first century A.D. a statesman in ancient Rome wrote in worried vein about the squandering of Roman wealth on Indian luxuries.....Although direct relations between Europe and India were cut off by the Arabs in the Middle Ages, the legend of the wealth of the "Indies" continued to grip Western minds. The power of this legend caused Columbus in 1492 to take his dangerous journey westward across the Atlantic, seeking to re-establish direct contact with India. As late as the 18th century, British observers were repeatedly struck by the material prosperity of the land they were beginning to conquer."

(source: India: A World in Transition - By Beatrice Pitney Lamb p. 19 and 358).

"In India I have found great beauty of a kind far too rare in the United States. Instead of the hard, taut, anxious faces, so common in America, I have seen many there that were calm, open, untroubled, serene. I have seen dignity and grace of movement derived not from training but from inner peace and wholeness."

(source: Why India? - By Beatrice Pitney Lamb).

 

"Recently, increasing numbers of Westerners in revolt against what they have found to be the shallow, gadget-dominated, spiritually empty civilization of the West have turned to "Hinduism" in search of greater meaning or purpose in life. There is no doubt that the great Hindu tradition offers profound spiritual insights, as well as techniques for attaining self-realization, detachment, and even ecstasy."

***

"Recently, increasing numbers of Westerners in revolt against what they have found to be the shallow, gadget-dominated, spiritually empty civilization of the West have turned to "Hinduism" in search of greater meaning or purpose in life. There is no doubt that the great Hindu tradition offers profound spiritual insights, as well as techniques for attaining self-realization, detachment, and even ecstasy."

(source:
India: A World in Transition - By Beatrice Pitney Lamb p. 19 and 358).

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