Sunday, March 26, 2017

Swa, Para Ramayanas

Ramayana is said to be the Soul of Bharat, the united India extending from today’s Afghanistan to Vietnam. Over millennia, Srimad Ramayana stood for the ultimate pursuit of every Bharatiya to be like Sri Rama, embodiment of Dharma. Given that Sanatana Hindu Dharma emphasized in punar-janma (rebirth), every Bharatiya took each life time as a step towards self-realization, which is becoming the Atman that is Sri Rama (TatTvamAsi).

The origin of Ramayana maha-kavya itself is worth learning about. In a conversation with sage Narada, maharishi Valmiki asks if there exists (currently) a person with 16 virtues or characteristics (Balakanda 1-1-2 to 1-1-5); considered to represent a self-realized embodiment of Dharma. To that question Narada answers affirmatively and briefly narrates the story of Sri Kausalya-putra Rama, son of Dasaradha. Then Brahma proposes maharishi Valmiki narrates the story of Sri Rama in detail, which leads Valmiki to write the story of that Dasaradha Rama as Ramayana (Rama + Ayana = Journey of Rama).

At this point, it is important to note that Kausalya-putra Dasaradha Rama was not the first Rama of Bharatiya puranic lore. There were many Ramas before Dasaradha Rama. In fact, there was a Renuka-putra Jamadagni Rama (famously known as Parasu Rama), who was also an avatar of Sri Vishnu and a chiranjivi (immortal), who would live till end of time (this sweta-varaha kalpa). But none of their autobiography will ever be called Ramayana in Bharatiya puranic lore.

If Ramayana (Rama + Ayana) means Rama’s journey, why can’t the journey of any and every Rama be Ramayana? It can be in a literal sense. But that will lead to two problems. First, it will lead to plagiarism of Valmiki’s intellectual property. Secondly, it will be an Asuric-wart on Bharatiya civilization. If an author persists to do it, it reflects the author’s prejudices not Ramayana nor Bharatiya civilization.

Then what is the essence of Valmiki Ramayana? Bharatiya Rishis used two tools to explain a scripture’s essence or purpose. First tool is called “Anubandha Chatushthaya”, which explains 
  1. Adhikara – the required qualification of a reader of that scripture
  2. Vishaya – The object or body of knowledge presented in the book
  3. Prayojana – The purpose or result the reader would get out of the book
  4. Sambandha – how the reader is expected to approach the body of knowledge in the book 

The second tool is phala-shruti of a given scripture. For example, Valmiki explains the phala-shruti of Ramayana in shlokas 6-128-108thru 6-128-125. Interesting minds can read.

Many seekers, poets and authors took inspiration from Valmiki Ramayana and retold that story in their own words and prejudices. We can group all these non-Valmiki Ramayanas into two groups. First group of authors merely retold Valmiki Ramayana as a celebration of Sri Rama without altering the Anubandha Chatushthaya. Few examples of these Ramayanas are Agastya Ramayana, RamaCharitaManas by Sant Tulasi Das, Kamba Ramayana in Tamil, Ramayana Kalpavriksha by Sri Viswanatha Satyanarayana in Telugu etc. It is important for readers to note that such Ramayanas exist even outside todays nation-state called India.

The second group of Ramayanas are distortions of Valmiki Ramayana to fit into a non-Hindu religious or ideological perspective. Examples of these Ramayanas are Dasaradha Jataka in Buddhism, Paumachariyam in Jainism and a communist distortion of Ramayana called Ramayana Visha-vriksha by Muppalla Ranganayakamma in Telugu.

Perhaps an analogy would help better understand these distortions of Ramayana. Imagine a sugar-cane juice center on the road side, a common scene on Bharatiya roads. Often it is a family enterprise; a woman acting as table-server and running cash counter while her husband or a man running the hand-operated sugar-cane mill to extract juice. We can observe all kinds of people in such a shop; all came to enjoy the juice but make different observations. 

Few enjoy the juice as if it is amruta, oblivious to the surroundings or few ogling at the beautiful woman at the counter, few others jealously wondering how much profit this family must be making, few feeling disgusted at the not-so pristine environment, few others getting upset at the socio-economic exploitation of this poor family and a beggar hoping to catch the magnanimity of the shop-owners for a free juice and so on.  But the family running the shop are detached from all these feelings, unless expressed aggressively, as they are busy with their swadharma.

Similarly, Valmiki’s Ramayana swadharma is its Anubandha Chatushthaya. Any translation or re-rendering of Ramayana that honored the original Anubandha Chatushthaya is considered as Swa-Ramayana (our Ramayana) by Bharatiya civilization and celebrated as thus. 

Any Ramayana that distorted this Anubandha Chatushthaya of Valmiki is considered as para-Ramayana (not Ramayana) by Bharatiya civilization even if it tells the story of that very Kausalya putra Dasaradha Rama. Reading a para-Ramayana is like a seeker eating the sugar-cane trash without juice in the above analogy.

Thanks to triple colonization of Bharat by Islam, Christianity and Secularism, a new wave of Ramayanas are being unleashed on Bharatiya consciousness. These renderings are neither the stories of Kausalya-putra Sri Rama, nor they honor the Anubandha Chatushthaya of Valmiki Ramayana. They are stories of non Bharatiya individuals packaged as Ramayana with a single motivation to distort and confuse. If there ever was another hero like Sri Rama, who demonstrated the 16 virtues described by Valmiki, it is our dharmic duty to recognize those individuals as avataras of Vishnu in their own names without any shame. If they do not demonstrate those qualities, then applying Ramayana name is nothing but plagiarism of Valmiki’s work and insulting Sanatana Hindu Dharma. 

There is little one can do to stop such deceptive, unethical authors from plagiarizing Ramayana, our Bharatiya dharmic and cultural heritage. It does not matter if the author is erudite or even Veda-acharya. Almost all of our Puranic asuras, such as Trishira and Ravana were great Veda panditas themsevels, but were killed as they misinterpreted, mis-lived Veda vangmaya.

However, we can warn the readers on avoiding such distortions and ku-panditas.

As individuals do a critical study of Dharma, thru Ramayana or other Sanatana Dharmic scriptures, there will be two outcomes. One is the seeker gets results of their pursuit (called Tapas if done individually and Yajna if done collectively) in physical, conscious and causal realms. This also includes the impact of the seeker’s pursuit on surroundings (environment, society and other seekers). Mind you, a wrong seeker can get right followers and vice-versa. In the past, a seeker didn’t share his/her methods and observations until one got Siddhi (fulfillment) or concluded their pursuit for lack of Siddhi. Few shared their failed methods and failures as a warning to others.

In the current era, the environment and tools (such as internet and social media) permit a seeker to share their study and methods in real time as they plan, prepare and do their pursuit. We can’t be sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it is very important (for the followers) to know that the seeker is still on their own journey and haven’t concluded their pursuit or got Siddhi. Another important fact to note is that many followers are following a seeker while the seeker himself/herself is in the journey without knowing to what purpose the pursuit is, at what stage the pursuit is, for how long it will continue and to where it goes and so on.

This is like people running behind Forest Gump in that famous Hollywood movie. One fine day the seeker (Forest Gump – a humble person literally running away from his own fears) will stop running and goes home leaving his followers stand confused in a road to nowhere.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Ideas on Education

Disclaimer: This post was made on Bharat Rakshak Forum on 1st April 2010. I request interested readers to visit the forum to read associated discussion and participate.


The conventional wisdom in Indian strategic community is that India is a poor nation and it cannot afford to have both butter and guns so Bharat must sacrifice its security (territorial - PoK, Aksai-Chin, Tibet etc; Civic - terrorist attacks, law and order; Civilizational - Reclaiming occupied temples etc) for economic growth. 

I disagreed with that conventional wisdom and wrote a series of posts on how Bharat can plan achieve all rounded glory using existing economic resources.

This post is on the topic of Education.


There are three parts to the Education focus area

1. National Literacy Program: (Budget: Rs 10,000 Crore Per Year for 10 Years)

Objective: National Literacy Program is to achieve near 100% literacy throughout India. The definition of the literacy program is to make an individual learn to Read, Write, Understand any Indian language, in addition to obtaining a National-ID plus Voter Card/Ration Card.

Methodology: All undergraduate and graduates students can join this voluntary program and earn Rs 500 for each illiterate member:
  1. A volunteer joins NLP by applying its teacher-membership.
  2. The volunteer member identifies the illiterate people and submits their forms. If the students (illiterate) do not have National-ID cards, volunteer makes sure they obtained them. The Program Officer confirms that they are not duplicate entries after checking the National ID database and NLP Database.
  3. The volunteer helps educate the beneficiary on prescribed course work and helps the beneficiary prepare for the exams.
  4. Examination: Pro-metric type computerized test centers in all towns. The participant has to show national ID card (Aadhar) as proof. Must get 70% correct answers to pass. Can take exam as many as times needed till passes.
  5. Course content includes

  • Language Skills - Reading, Writing and Comprehension
  • Math – Simple Arithmetic 
  • History – National History, Geography
  • Governance – Local/State/Central governance structure
  • Law and Order – What are their basic rights and responsibilities
  • Form Filling – How to fill a Voter card, Demand Draft, Ration Card form, etc.,
  • Civic Sense – Basic understanding on civic sense – Rights and responsibilities

Cost Structure:
  1. Book – A single handbook – Rs 250
  2. Examination costs – Rs 250
  3. NLP volunteer – will receive Rs 500 for each passed student
  4. The participant will receive Rs 1000 cash upon passing the exam.
TOTAL = Rs 2000 per illiterate.
With an annual budget of Rs 10000 crore, we can have at least 4-5 Crore people become literate every year.

There will be a significant amount of corruption in the beginning by already educated people. So be it. If an educated person is willing to learn the above items and pass the pro-metric exam for a Rs 1000 benefit, it is worth the investment. 

2. Primary Education (Budget: Rs 97,632 crore including 2 meals a day and 100% Health Insurance)

Note: These were 2010 estimates based on 1.13B population.

  1. Any graduate and above who completed their BEd (Bachelor of Education – How to teach, method and art of teaching) can participate in this program.
  2. A group of 10 graduates must join and apply as a group to start a school. Govt of India will offer them Rs 5Lakh as loan to kick start the school. This amount becomes FREE GRANT if the school continues for minimum 3 years.
  3. Each school can have as many students as required. They will receive Rs 250 for each registered student, with National-ID as proof, per month. They can charge additional fee if the parents are willing to pay the additional amount.
  4. The current public school system will be modified to make a village as a unit. In towns each municipal ward will become one unit. All schools in that unit, primary/secondary/high schools, will be combined to make a single unit for efficient management.
  5. A school must maintain maximum 1:30 teacher: student ratio. 

Cost Structure:

Note: All existing govt. schools will be combined within a village up to 12th grade and will be converted into residential schools operated by GOI.

  • A School with 1000 students (30-35 teachers) will receive ~Rs 30 Lakhs per yer from Govt grants.
  • Offers employment opportunities for upto 4.5 million graduates. If graduates are encouraged to have similarly qualified spouses, the family income would be around Rs 1.5-2.0 Lakhs per year, bringing them into the 15% IT bracket above Rs 1.5 Lakhs.
  • Will open ~13,500 Akshayapatra type modern kitchens (each kitchen supplies 10,000 students or 20,000 meals a day). Offers employment to at least 135,000 non-graduates. If we can integrate the supply-chains of this Aksyapatra kitchens with my Farm subsidy returns (Rs 10,000 or 30% of crop returns, whichever is smaller will be collected by govt from 4 crore acres of food grain crops) then we can achieve an efficient food-management supply chain within India.

Standardization. Each school may have a different style of education (within approved structures) to achieve and maintain differentiation. But it could a boon in disguise having non-standardized education up to 10th grade.

Further work

  • Collect data on Central and State budget allocations for primary and secondary education, health-care and mid-day meals program. 
  • Revise estimates based on 2017-20 population data and demographics.
  • Compare the cost structures and supply-chain employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labor in Mid-day meal programs and primary health-care sectors.
  • Define the course framework to be implemented across the nation while giving scope for differentiation by schools.