The extinction of Brahminism.

Question: Who is a Brahmin’s worst enemy? Answer: Another Brahmin.

Brahmins will be extinct by 2050.

Brahmins are less than 4% of the total population and declining at a rate that will result in extinction within four decades, give or take a decade.

We won’t be missed after we go extinct. Brahmins are already irrelevant in Indian society. We are out of the mainstream. Neither in government jobs nor in academic institutes are Brahmins wanted. Every year, reservation quotas increase and opportunities for us decrease, no matter which political party is in power. That is because our votes are too few to matter.

Battered, humiliated, hounded and reduced to a negligible minority, we are in fact the most marginalised section of Indian society.

And yet, who is a Brahmin’s worst enemy? Another Brahmin.

All the grief I have faced in my life – personal and professional – has been caused to me exclusively by fellow Brahmins.

This is how we are making ourselves extinct:

1) Exogamy: Simply put, marrying out of caste. Brahmin grooms are no longer preferred by Brahmin brides – especially a Brahmin groom who is not an NRI. It’s called “empowerment” you see.

On the other hand, Brahmin grooms are no better!

It sounds terribly old-fashioned, I know. But I believe the choice of your life-partner is best left to your elders. I speak from harsh experience, people!

2) Soaring divorce rates: The divorce rate for upper caste marriages is far higher than other castes. Once again, “empowerment”, you see.

3) Emigration: India not good enough for you? Quit India. Whichever country you emigrate to, loudly mock India at every opportunity and on every social forum. And then wonder why resident Brahmins like myself hate you so much.

4) Cannibalism: Yes. Cannibalism. As I said, a Brahmin’s worst enemy is another Brahmin. We are the most intolerant people in the country. Shaiva versus Vaishnava. Iyer versus Iyengar. Vadakalai versus Thenkalai. North versus South. Aryan blood versus Dravidian blood.

Ever seen Brahmins from different sects arguing? They will come to blows over the most trivial differences. The argument about which symbol should be painted on the forehead of a temple elephant has been raging between Vadakalais and Thenkalais since two hundred years

Talk to an Iyer and he will vehemently explain to you why an Iyengar is an arrogant idiot. And vice-versa. The Nambudri says his form of Brahminism is the highest in the universe, while the Havyaka says the same about his version. The north Indian Sharma makes fun of the south Indian Hegde because he cannot speak Hindi. The Madras Iyengar laughs at the Palakkad Iyer because his Tamil isn’t “pure”.

We cannot stand each other, cannot tolerate minor differences, cannot even accept other Brahmins as fellow Brahmins. How can we blame other castes for wiping us out?

Thus, extinction is inevitable. Not because of other castes. We will eradicate ourselves.

We have two choices then – either we go extinct, or we don’t. The fundamental question is, are Brahmins worth saving? Does Brahminism deserve to survive?

Why not? Why the hell not?

As a Brahmin, I am unique. My culture is unique. My traditions are unique. My identity is unique. Like most other Brahmins, my bloodline is at least six thousand years old. Who are you to wipe out my culture, my traditions, my identity, my bloodline? Who the eff are you?

Brahmins and Brahminism. We have the right to survive, to live and to prosper. Like anybody else.

How do we prevent extinction then? Isn’t it obvious?

Don’t marry out of caste. At least, marry someone from another Brahmin sect, if you cannot stand your own. Do not marry for a green card or for money. Instead, marry into a family that is rich in culture and values.

If you think marriage is “slavery” and are unwilling to commit yourself to your spouse, then do not marry at all. Better that you remain single and not screw up another Brahmin’s life. Committing yourself to a Brahmin marriage also means committing yourself to creating a Brahmin family. If you are against the idea of child-rearing, that’s your choice – but then do not get married, please.

Mind you, I said “spouse“. Gender non-specific.

No one is stopping you from leaving the country, and I don’t blame you if you do. But do not abuse the country you left behind.  For thousands of years before you, your forefathers lived and died here. The sterling qualities that made you attractive to your adoptive country are a genetic legacy from those very forefathers. If you cannot honor them, then at least do not abuse them in front of foreigners, you ungrateful dickhead.

Give something back to your sect and your country. What you do for your fellow Brahmins depends entirely on you. Get a job abroad for a fellow Brahmin, help him or her in education, do business preferentially with resident Brahmins who are not as fortunate as you are. Do whatever you think fit. But resolve to help other Brahmins prosper in any way you can.

If you’re an employer in the private sector, hire Brahmins. The private sector is still free from reservation quotas – but not for long. Not for long.

Get familiar with your Brahmin culture, before you make fun of it for the amusement of others. I do not know much about the Vedas and other scriptures. That’s because I’m not very good at Sanskrit. I’m learning Sanskrit now, at this advanced age. But that’s just me. It is not necessary to be a great Vedic scholar, not necessary to recite hundreds of shlokas verbatim, not necessary to conduct Vedic rituals yourself, in order to appreciate your culture.

Even a working knowledge of Sanskrit and an acquaintance with our culture will do. You have no idea how rich our Brahmin culture actually is. Indian science, medicine, surgery, technology, philosophy, art, music, language – created, developed and nurtured by Brahmins over thousands of years.

For example, read the English versions of Kautilya’s Arthashastra or Charaka’s Samhita, and be astonished at how relevant that ancient wisdom still is today.

Invest a small amount of time in learning about who we are and where we come from, and I guarantee you will feel an enormous surge of pride in your identity.

And don’t screw up your fellow Brahmins in their respective jobs and businesses. If you cannot or will not help them, then don’t add to their misery either.

Or, continue to cannibalise your own caste, continue to be trod upon, keep whining about what’s happening to the Brahmins in India – and watch as we are driven into extinction.

I don’t want to be extinct. How about you?

Diwali … get your fundas right!

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I’ve always wondered … why do most of our festivals celebrate somebody’s death?

It’s usually about some demon who obtains special powers or advanced weaponry by propitiating various Gods. He then goes on a global killing and looting spree, thereby becoming a major nuisance to the general public and incurring the wrath of the same Gods who gave him all those powers in the first place. Invariably, a mighty battle follows between said demon and said Gods, and our unfortunate demon is decapitated, eviscerated and dismembered, as a stern example to other demons with divine ambitions.

And we mortals rejoice, abandon our work, release malodorous fireworks into the atmosphere, eat and drink lustily, burn a lot of money, and generally celebrate the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘evil’.

Yet, most people won’t even know the name of the demon whose death they celebrate.

So it is with Deepavali.  When asked, most of my friends give me a vague reply.  Something to do with Lakshmi puja or Lord Rama or something, they tell me, before rushing off to buy Chinese firecrackers at cheap rates – and stocking up on booze.

If you wish to celebrate a festival, then do it right.

Herewith then, some Diwali fundas …

Diwali is always celebrated during the last six days of  Ashvina and the first day of Kartika, these two being the sixth and seventh months in the Hindu calendar. This corresponds to end-October/early November.

This year, 2016, that period is between Oct 26th and November 2nd.

The Hindu calendar is based on the waxing and waning of the moon. There is one full moon day every month as you probably know. Therefore, each month has two halves – the earth moon phasefortnight before a full moon and the fortnight after it. The fortnight before the full moon, i.e. the waxing period is called Shukla paksha – the bright half, Shukla meaning white in Sanskrit. The fortnight after the full moon is called Krishna paksha – the dark half, Krishna meaning black.

Diwali is perhaps the oldest of the Indian festivals. In some form or the other, India has celebrated Diwali since the past five thousand years at least.

Diwali is not one festival.  It commemorates six separate events from Vedic history.  Over the ages, these six festivals merged into one major festival.

OK, here goes:

The 12th day of Ashvina-Shuklapaksha, is Govatsa Dwadashi. As you can figure out from the name, this day is dedicated to cows and calves. Those who celebrate Govatsa Dvadashi perform a puja for their cows and do not consume milk products on this day, This year, Govatsa Dvadashi falls on ThursdayOct 27th. 

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Dhanvantari, at Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore. Note the leech in his right hand.

The 13th day of the dark half of Ashvina, i.e. Krishnapaksha Trayo-dashi, is the birthday of Dhanvanatri, the celestial physician who appeared during Sagaramanthan, the churning of the ocean. Hence it is called Dhantrayodashi.

People up North also believe that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth,  is in a benevolent mood on this particular day. People light lamps through the night, in the hope that Lakshmi pays them a visit. For this reason, this day is also called Dhanteras.

This year, Dhanteras falls on October 28th, Friday.

Medical professionals who consider Dhanvantari as their patron god may perform a Dhanvantari puja on this day.

Some others prefer to gamble on this day, in the belief that if they win on Dhanteras they keep winning through the year. They usually lose heavily.

In some parts of west and north India, it is believed that evil spirits are at their strongest on this night, and some perform a Hanuman puja.

– The 14th day of Ashvina-Krishnapaksha, i.e. Chatur-dashi, commemorates the death of Narakasura. The son of Bhoodevi (Mother Earth) and Lord Vishnu in his Varaha (boar) incarnation, Narakasura became a nasty warlord due to special boons given to him by Vishnu himself.

He had to be slain by a later incarnation of Vishnu, i.e., Krishna, or in some versions of the legend, by his wife Satyabhama. Apparently, just before he died, Narakasura requested Krishna and Satyabhama that his death should not be mourned by his subjects, but celebrated with a lot of light and colour.krishna_and_narakasura_ack99

Since he was slain just before sunrise, Naraka Chaturdashi is celebrated with bright lights and a lot of noise in the wee hours of the morning – unfortunately.

Narakachaturdashi, or Choti Diwali as it is called up North, falls on October 29, Saturday.

There is a belief that anyone who has a bath-cum-oil massage (or Abhyangsnana) before sunrise on Narakachaturdashi will avoid going to hell. Now you know why your grandma would haul you out of bed at an ungodly hour and dunk your head in hot water.

Well, if you so believe, the correct time for avoiding hell is 04.58 to 06:15, on October 29.

The 15th day, i.e., No moon day or Ashvina Amavasya, marks the day on which Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana. Rama slew Ravana on Vijayadashami. After handing over Lanka to Vibhishana, he returned to Ayodhya eighteen days after Vijayadashami. Since it was Amavasya, the darkest night of the month, the residents of Ayodhya lit up the whole city with oil-lamps.

That of course, is why it is called Deepavali.

On this day, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, specifically during the evening hours, or Pradosh kaal.

Diwali and Lakshmi puja this year are on Sunday, October 30. For those of you who are serious about Lakshmi puja, the correct time is between 18:50 to 20:19.

The next day is the first day of the bright half of Kartika, i.e. Prathami-Shukla paksha. This day is celebrated as Govardhana Puja, to commemorate Krishna’s feat of lifting the entire Govardhan mountain on his finger, to protect his villagers from Indra’s wrath.

In North and West India, this day is also celebrated as Bali Padyami, believed to be the day on which Raja Bali returns from the depths of the underworld and visits his kingdom on earth. In Kerala however, this day is celebrated during the festival of Onam.

Usually, the Gujarati new year also falls on this day or on the day before. Traditional Gujarati businessmen close their account books (or Chopda) and open a new Chopda, with a Chopda puja.

The second day of Kartika, i.e. Kartika Dvitiya is celebrated as Bhau Bheej or Bhaya bhaubeejDuj. According to our scriptures, Yama, god of death, visited his sister Yami on this particular day. Brother and sister were very happy with the visit, and Yama assured his sister that any brother who visits his sister on this day will be blessed with long life.

Hence this day is also called Yama Dvitiya.

For those brothers who are unable to visit their sisters (as am I), prayers offered to Yama by the concerned sisters will suffice.

This then is the six-day festival of Diwali.

Note however, that nowhere and nowhere in the scriptures, does it specify that Diwali must be celebrated by intense air and noise pollution, extreme drunkenness, rowdy behavior and by a vulgar exhibition of wealth.

Have a happy Diwali everyone. And let me have a peaceful Diwali – for a change.

Cheers … Srini.

Dasha Hara … once again!

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Once again, the festival of Nine Nights comes by, and once again I find myself in the home of the Ravindranath family, to enjoy their spectacular Golu display.

For those of my readers who are unfamiliar with this festival, herewith some Dushera fundas:

In the Indian scriptures, the nine nights of Navaratri, correctly called Maha Navaratri, are dedicated to Shakti, the fundamental force that drives all of Creation. In the scriptures, Shakti is given the form of a woman, The Cosmic Mother.

At the beginning of Time, She created Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the three divine entities that are responsible for maintaining Creation. Hence, She is also called Adi Shakti, the Primary Force.

The nine nights of Navaratri are dedicated to Navadurga, the goddess Shakti manifested as Durga, in nine different forms.

veenaravidasara2016-1According to the Puranas, Durga was created to slay Mahishasura, a powerful demon who had a boon from Brahma that he could not be slain by a man or an asura or a God. He thought that women were too weak to fight him, and omitted to add women to that list.

Mahishasura was the original MCP! And he paid a big price for his arrogance. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh put their energies together and brought forth Durga, a woman of immense power.

It took Her nine nights and ten days, but at the end of a fearsome battle, Durga slew Mahishasura. Mahanavaratri is celebrated to commemorate this mighty battle between good and evil.

Mahanavaratri is so called because there are four other Navaratris during the year. Mahanavaratri or Sharad Navaratri is considered the most important of them all, and is held during the first nine days of the bright half (Shukla paksha) of the month of Ashwin, which corresponds to early October to mid-November in the Gregorian calendar. The festival marks the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of winter. From Navaratri onwards, we can expect clear blue skies.

Srirangam, near Trichy.
Srirangam, near Trichy. The first of the 108 Divya Deshams.

On the ninth day of  Mahanavaratri, Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, is worshipped. In the Gurukulas of ancient India, students began their studies on this day. Music classes start on this day, and we worship our books and other sources of knowledge – that would include laptops and iPads nowadays!

Khseerabdi Shayana - Vishnu resting on the Ocean of Milk.
Khseerabdi Shayana – Vishnu resting on the Ocean of Milk.

On the ninth day, some people also hold Ayudha Puja, and worship their weapons, implements and tools of trade. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna reveals his identity to Prince Uttarakumar on this day and collect his weapons that he had hidden in a Shami tree, before doing battle with the Kauravas.

The tenth day, Vijayadashami, is the day on which Durga slew Mahishasura and became known as Mahishasuramardini.

Vijayadashami also commemorates the death of Raavana at the hands of Rama. In the Ramayana, Rama worships Durga on this day, and seeks her blessing to slay the ten-headed Ravana.

This is why the festival is also called Dasha Hara, the cutting of Ravana’s ten heads, or Dusshera.

Mahisha’s capital was Mahishasura Uru, now known as Maisuru or Mysore. Durga is known as Chamundeswari in this part of India and is the reigning diety of Mysore. The Chamundeswari temple at Mysore is almost a thousand years old. Dusshera is a really big festival in Mysore.

veenaravidasara2016-07385For those of us who hail from Bombay, Navaratri is all about Garba and Dandiya Raas. Garba derives its name from ‘garbha’ meaning pregnant. It symbolises the cycle of life. Traditional Garba is performed only by women and does not use any sticks. Dandiyaa, on the other hand, is based on the events of Krishna’s early life in Brindavan. Somewhere in the past, these two dance forms converged.

For me, Dusshera is about traditional golu, a stepped display of dolls and miniatures. My mother’s collection of earthen dolls is fifty years old. My sister and her friends would make cute little landscapes and other decorations for golu.

So once again this year, here I am at the home of the Ravindranath family at Basavanagudi, Bangalore. Since two decades, this unique family has been putting up a remarkable Golu display in their home.

Open to the public at no charge whatsoever, this amazing exhibition comprises well over FOUR THOUSAND dolls and miniatures.

Parama Padam - the supreme abode of Vishnu
Parama Padam – the supreme abode of Vishnu

The golu display here is built upon a particular theme each year. This year, the theme is based on the 108 Divya Deshams.

The Divya Deshams (Divine temples) are 108 temples dedicated to Vishnu, that were specifically described by the twelve Azhvars in the Divya Prabandha, a collection of 4000 ancient Tamil verses that worship Vishnu. The Azhvars (pronounced approximately as ‘alwaars’) were twelve poet-saints who devoted their entire lives to the worship of Vishnu and the propagation of Vaishnavism in south India. There is considerable controversy about the exact time period, but it is generally agreed that they lived at least a thousand years ago or so.

The twelve Azhvars
The twelve Azhvars

The Azhvars came from all castes and all walks of life. Only three of them were Brahmins and one of them was a woman.

I’ve seen some impressive Golu collections in my time, but this one is in a different class. Piece by piece, doll by doll, each of which was made to order by master craftsmen across south India, this amazing collection has taken over two decades to put together. And, it has cost this modest, middle-class family a small fortune. Some of the larger dolls cost Rs. 20,000/- each.

This display is open to the public at no charge whatsoever. And yet, there are some unscrupulous people who charge ignorant tourists a lot of money on the pretext of taking them to see this free golu display.

Parasites like these make my blood boil. I had the same experience at Mahabalipuram, where I was fleeced by a self-styled “expert”.

Caveat emptor, people. Caveat emptor.

Many golu displays are not open to the public. But those that are open to the public, are always free. There is no need to cough up money to a third party who poses as a cultural “expert”. Locate the place on the internet, contact the concerned family, and just go.  Some families do not permit photography and some do. It is better to ask beforehand.

You will be expected to remove your footwear and mute your cellphone. The host will be glad to explain the display to you, making it completely unnecessary to hire any “expert” from outside.

The Ravindranath family
The Ravindranath family

Remember to profusely thank the host. Golu displays take a lot of time and effort to assemble. The Ravindranath family takes three months to assemble their mind-boggling Golu collection.

Theist or not, take pride in our country’s rich cultural heritage.  My atheism doesn’t come in the way of my appreciation of my country’s culture and traditions.

Happy Dasha Hara, everyone.

Cheers … Srini.

A matter of Faith … or is it confirmation bias?

quotes-about-listening-to-music-20150208083448-54d71fa8c43bbIs faith a psychiatric disorder? Sometimes, I’m inclined to think so.

In my country, there are more places of worship than schools, more godmen than scientists, more ashrams than hospitals. In my country, stone idols drink milk, dead men are brought back to life, multi-million dollar research centers are first consecrated by a priest on an auspicious date and at auspicious hour before any scientist lays a step inside.

I ply my trade exclusively in academic research institutes. All my customers are scientists. Almost all of them have religious icons on their desks, pictures of godmen on their walls.

I’m no stranger to famous godmen myself. I’ve seen them up close, watched them perform their ‘miracles’, produce gold watches and holy ash from nowhere, drive their devotees into a religious frenzy. I’ve seen people getting ‘possessed’. I’ve seen idols drink milk. I’ve seen people drive spikes into their backs, nails into their palms, walk across flaming coals. I’ve seen a godman’s photographs generate nectar and holy ash.

When I ask devout people why they believe what they believe and why they do what they do, the answer is the same – Faith.

Faith is their raison d’être.

They will not give up their faith. In the face of overwhelming evidence against their godman, they will still cling on to him. Show them a video that clearly shows their godman producing holy ash from a tube hidden in his sleeve, they will denounce the video as a fake. Show them another video of their godman gambolling around with a naked woman, they will claim it is just his way of testing your faith. Explain to them that the “nectar” pouring out of the godman’s photograph is merely the product of a simple chemical reaction and show them how it can be done, they will yell at you and call you an agent of Satan.

The phenomenon has been extensively studied by psychologists. There’s a scientific term for it. It’s called persistence of belief. Or confirmation bias.

People will interpret data based on their own individual beliefs. If they are presented with evidence contrary to their beliefs, they will either disregard it outright or twist their interpretation of that evidence to fit in with their beliefs. That is why fake godmen consistently get away with all kinds of crap. They have a deep understanding of how confirmation bias works. Most of all, they know that confirmation bias is contagious. In particular, parents can and do, pass on their confirmation bias to their children.

I lost my only child solely because of confirmation bias. Haven’t seen her in fifteen years. She has been made to believe that I am the embodiment of evil, because I stood against her mother’s godman. And mind you, the godman she worships died in 1918. Such is the contagion of confirmation bias that more than a hundred years after his death, his cult still continues to grow.

Harsh experience has taught me to keep my evidence and my scientific arguments to myself. There is just no point in trying to explain to people that blind belief in a godman does not constitute religion, and that talking against an obviously fraudulent godman is not blasphemy.

I have tried to explain this to my ‘rationalist’ friends. You know, those well-meaning but hopelessly misguided souls who rant against godmen, religion, spirituality, superstitions and the like. They firmly believe their ranting will result in a fundamental change in our society and bring forth a new generation of enlightened humans who believe only in science. No matter what, they will not let go of that belief.

In other words, these “rationalists” suffer from confirmation bias.

I am fiercely proud of my country, the depth of her culture, the greatness of her philosophy, the vastness of her scriptures, her achievements in science, her ancient sagacity, her capacity to assimilate alien cultures and enrich them while doing so.

However, nowhere in her scriptures does she say that we should not use our common sense. Krishna in the Gita talks at length about ‘muda bhakti’, i.e. foolish, mindless devotion. You may read the Gita if you wish to. And whether you accept Krishna’s divinity is your choice. But there is no denying that the wisdom Krishna imparts in the Gita is practical and down-to-earth. If you take the trouble, you will discover that much of the knowledge in our ancient scriptures, like the Upanishads for example, is practical in nature. Contrary to what you may think, skepticism was encouraged in ancient India, debate was preferred over discourse, and evidence was considered a pre-requisite to belief.

Thanks once again to confirmation basis, we have been made to believe instead that our culture is based on ritualism and our scriptures are ‘mumbo-jumbo’ – this being the term favored by ‘rationalists’ and ‘free-thinkers’ (who are neither rational, nor free nor thinkers).

So. How do we deal with confirmation bias? We don’t. Because we can’t. Devotee or cultist or rationalist or free-thinker. Doesn’t matter. There is no real cure for confirmation bias.

Just as you cannot convince a devotee that he is wrong in his beliefs, you cannot convince a ‘rationalist’ that he is wrong as well. In both cases, they will disregard any evidence you present. It may seem incongruous, but frequently ‘rationalists’ base their arguments on flawed evidence. And just like their superstitious counterparts, they will not accept any evidence that their evidence is flawed. Ironic, isn’t it?

Therefore, don’t bother. Just steer clear of both sides. Keep your evidence to yourself, smile and go about your life. If you are not too burdened with scruples, you can use confirmation bias to your advantage, in your business and in your social life.

There is a very good reason why first impressions always count. That reason is interview-first-impression-300x300confirmation bias. If you want to win over a client or a lover, then be very very careful about the first impression they form of you. If they form a favorable first impression of you, then confirmation bias will usually compel them to hold on to that image over the course of the relationship, even if you bungle things later on. And vice versa. If someone forms a bad first impression of you, there is little you can do to correct it later on.

Do your homework then, before that first meeting.

And don’t fall into the trap of confirmation bias yourself. Learn to look at both sides of the coin. Realise that even scientific evidence can be and usually is, heavily biased. Understand that even renowned award-winning scientists have frequently been shown to be wrong – but rarely accept that fact.

If you do an internet search for the ill-effects of alcohol, for example, you will be presented with tons of research papers that conclusively prove that booze is bad for you. Do a search for the health benefits of alcohol, and behold, you will be presented with an equal amount of evidence that proves that booze is actually good for you.

You will have to use your own judgement. Personally, I think a little faith may not be bad for you. Too much of it, on the other hand, is not a good idea. How much is too much, is for you to figure out.

As for me and my estranged daughter Sanjana, who believes I am the embodiment of evil, well, I am sure that one day she will come looking for me.

I have faith.

Cheers … Srini.

Acharya Devo Bhava … Salutations to the Guru.

Image source: mustseeindia.com

The scriptures tell us that if you see your Guru and God together, then fall at your Guru’s feet first. This is because your Guru shows you the way to God. And that is why the word ‘guru’ means ‘remover of darkness’.

The 15th day of the month of Ashada is celebrated as Guru Purnima, and this year, that day falls on Tuesday, July 19th. In Buddhist tradition, this was the day on which Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon at Saranath, after he attained enlightenment. Since Gautama set the wheel of Buddhism in motion with this discourse, it is known as the Dharmachakra pravarthana sutra.

This day marks the birth of Veda Vyasa, revered in our scriptures as the Guru of all Gurus. Vyasa was born to the sage Parashar and a fisherman’s daughter, Satyavati, the same Satyavati who later wed King Shantanu, father of Bhishma.

Veda Vyasa is one of the most important personalities in Vedic history. He is the author of the Mahabharata and the progenitor of the Kuru race.

Vyasa systematically organised the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas, and made it much easier for ordinary people to appreciate our ancient scriptures. After splitting the Vedas into four sub-Vedas, Vyasa first imparted that knowledge to four of his disciples, thus creating the guru-shishya tradition. This system of teaching is unique to India.

Nowhere else in the world was the relationship between a guru and his disciple worshipped as it was in Vedic India. The relationship between a Guru and his disciple was considered sacred, above and beyond material considerations. It was purely spiritual and totally selfless. The Guru gave to his disciple all that he knew and he expected nothing in return. The student accepted his Guru’s teachings with humility and reverence. The Gurukula was not a school. It was regarded as a sacred abode, in which the Guru and his disciples lived together as one extended family. The term ‘Gurukula’ itself means ‘Guru and his family’. For years, the Guru and his disciples would live as one, until the Guru deemed it fit for the student to take his place in the world.

The student, before taking his Guru’s leave, would offer him Gurudakshina, in acknowledgement of his gratitude for his Guru. No Guru asked for money or for objects of desire, and no student was expected to insult his Guru’s teachings by offering him money as recompense. The Guru usually asked his student to perform a task for him, as did Dronacharya when he asked Arjuna to capture King Drupada. Arjuna promptly set forth, defeated Drupada after a mighty battle and presented him before his Guru. Drona generously gave back Drupada his freedom but retained half his kingdom, not for personal gain, but to let Drupada know that he was his equal in all ways.

More often than not, Gurus in ancient India took nothing at all from their students. They would consider their students’ success in the world as their Gurudakshina.

Even in modern times, our reverence for our teachers remains. Even in the age of the Internet and even with all the on-line courses available today, there is no substitute for the guiding presence, the motivation, the inspiration, the dedication and the selfless love that a student gets only from a real teacher.

So this Guru Purnima, do not forget to seek your teachers’ blessings – and to show them your gratitude.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”   William Arthur Ward, 1921-1994.

Cheers … Srini.