I wrote this as a response to MPhasis’s CEO – Jaithirth Rao’s article in Express India available at: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/15032.html
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Jerry,

Interesting article this week on the Gambling and Baksheesh spirit of Diwali, but I’m afraid you’ve gone overboard with twisting ancient Hindu philosophy to prove your point. Here are some insights for you:

1. Let me quote something from a book in Hindi called ‘Anamdas ka Potha’ that I read a few years back (I’ll write the same in Roman Hindi, and hope you can find someone to translate the same for you if you do not speak Hindi, for my attempt to translate in English is bound to alter the true meaning): “Char purusharth hain – Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Inmein pehle teen sadhan hain; antim, sadhya hain. Pehle teen mein Dharma sabse bada hai. Uske anukool reh kar hi Artha ka uparjan karna chahiye. Artha pradhan nahin hai – Dharma ka avirodhi reh kar hi purushartha hai. Dharma ke viruddh jaane par tyajya hai. Kama, Dharma aur Artha ka avirodhi reh kar hi purushartha hai.” . Very briefly my attempt at bringing the meaning out in English – Moksha is the purpose. The first three are methods or enablers (if you’ve been to Khajuraho ever, this will come out starkly to you).

So we are spiritual people, and it is best that we remain that way. It is a known fact that if India and China start living the way – the Earth does not have enough to sustain us all. The need of the hour is for us to evolve to the next level of spiritual consciousness, and accumulate wealth (Artha), while ensuring it is on the side of Dharma (so far so good), but keep our eyes/vision on Moksha – or the Oneness of all of us on Earth, including the Mother Earth itself (Think Gaia!). Sony’s new Chariman is showing a way ahead!

2. I have had the good fortune to have spent some intellectually stimulating evenings with Prakash Lal Tandon (the first Indian Chariman of HLL, and one of the leading Economists in India), and during one such evening, I raised a point with him: “Uncle, film producers who produce TV serials and porn or sexually explicit movies claim that ’sex sells’ and this is what people want, so we produce it – what are you thoughts on this?”. He said, “The world today has to have a constraint upon personal freedom in the form of social discipline, in order to create social harmony. People have to think not only to think of individuals but of society.”

We’re not in the most healthy position that we’re in as a race on Earth. The reason, I believe, has been that we have divorced Spirituality from all walks of life. Please read Spirituality as distinct from Religion (which is a discussion which would need a separate platform for). If life has a purpose, then we’re (us humans) not getting where we probably want to. Would you agree?

The point I am making is that you have contorted Ananda – Bliss – and lowered it to blast crackers – representative of ‘indulgence’ in everything possible.

3. It was Krishna, who advised, Bhima, that ‘extracting from more nature – more than you need will create imbalance on Earth’. Ofcourse, you know he delivered the Gita as well :-) . So while Krishna is about indulgence, the induslgence is of a different kind – not only of the spiritual kind – I’m sure he also meant, Sex, Wealth, Power, Intelligence, Love…but probably above all…”pursuit of bhakti – love – for the Divine”.

Wealth is great! It is a positive thingie. Indians seem to ridicule the same – yes I agree. But going the other way and suggesting, what you are – “Noisy crackers are objected to by crackpot environmentalists who see pollution everywhere and deny that life on this planet is about joy and its pursuit” – is not healthy either – as I’m sure when things come from a person in your position – people buy it more.

With power comes greater responsibility – this was the message of Spiderman in the movie.

4. So far as Baksheesh goes…well don’t even mention it these days. It seems the richer people get, the smaller their hearts become. Even I got stuck in one of my family member’s ideas of ‘the appropriate’ amount that ‘these people’ deserve. “These people” are none other than the dhobi, the postman, the car cleaner, the aaya, and the Municipal Corporation appointed sweeper. I think it is sick how we city people are. It is not just my family issue. It is my neighbours, our Resident’s Welfare Association (RWA), and all around the country, if not the world. The attitude to giving something on Diwali is actually not about ’sharing’ but nearly ‘giving by force’, and let me assure you this energy gets across to the people ‘recieving’. I think it lowers te receivers dignity, in most cases – as a result of the rather sick attitude to giving that most people have.

In the end, my take on countering your ideas (I must say I agree with many points – but certainly not the message you are sending out):
– ‘Sharing’ has a different flavour to it – one of giving – as a means for ones own (spiritual, mental, and I believe, even material) growth.
– Pursuing material progress is most certainly an aim all humans must have (including, may I say, Indians), but there has got to be a deep understanding that we are all One; else we will continue to screw up people the world over for our personal and collective (organisational, national; civilisational) selfish benefits.
– India is in a unique and rather envious place, of seeing material progress and yet under spiritual guidance of the numerous spiritual Gurus that we have across the country. I think we are the light of the world, and need to show the world a new way of purusing material progress sustainably for all of humanity, just as we did over and over again a few thousand years earlier, with our most ancient civilisation and some of the deepest human thought the world has seen, and more recently, as shown by Gandhi.

Would love to hear your views on the points I raised. And yes! I’ve hardly ever written to Newspapers, so would be nice if this can get published in some form in Indian Express – in any appropriate column.

Warm Regards,
Rahul Dewan

p.s.: In case you want to see what I do, visit: http://www.srijan.in/fileadmin/user_upload/srijan_introduction.pdf

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