Edavana Damodaran is that rare intellectual who does not sell himself. He is not an acknowledged teacher of either history, ethics, philosophy or religion. He is seldom seen; much less heard. And yet some of his earlier works like Critique of Self, Man and His Civilisations and India, the Cradle of Mankind have won him high praise from such acknowledged thinkers like Dr T.M.P. Mahadevan, Dr J.V. Nayak, Dr Karan Singh and Dr Gauri Lad, the last named from the Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, Pune. Human Destiny is, in a way, a continuation of Damodaran'searlier works and takes us further into the realm of thought. Damodaran'sscholarship is mind-blowing though he provides no guidelines to works of reference. The presumption is that he belongs to a rare category of an original thinker. One wishes though that he had taken the trouble to provide his readers the sources of his information even if only to establish his verisimilitude. Where, for instance, did he find that when Ayesha, the wife of Prophet Mohammad fell ill, she was treated by an Indian physician from among the local settlers?
The present work is broadly divided into four parts. Part I deals with cosmic consciousness; Part II with individual consciousness; the third part with self and the Absolute and the last with human destiny. Damodaran covers a wide range of subjects. If one can find fault with him, it will be on the grounds that he literally inundates the reader with his knowledge, and sorely tries the patience of his average reader. Damodaran seems to be in a hurry to unburden himself, so that he can proceed to the next stage of helping man to evolve to a higher stage of growth. If one accepts that proposition, then the reader'sapproach should be one of patience. He is advised to go thought the text not once or twice or thrice, but several times-on the first occasion to understand what the book is all about and what it tries to convey, in the second stage to choose a subject for further study and in later stages, to concentrate on that particular subject. And rich will be the reward.
His book is not for the lay reader but for the true seeker who wants to know what the world around us is all about. How did creation come into being? How did it evolve? The Rig Veda opens with a study of life on Earth which has a special position in the solar system and the starry world around it. Once the universe came into being, how did it evolve? Damodaran quotes several works such as the Surya Siddhanta, the Bhagavata, Brahmanda and Vishnu Purana to enlighten us on how cosmic consciousness had its origins. Our ancestors certainly knew more about the cosmos than many of us are willing to give them credit for. Vishnu Purana, for instance, states one axle of the Sun'schariot is 15,700,000 yojanas long. It is the distance between the centre of the Sun which is one wheel and the North Pole which forms the other wheel for the movement of the Earth around the Sun. Taking a yojana to be a little less than 6 miles, this distance comes to less than 94,200,000 miles. Modern astronomers have calculated the Earth'smean distance from the Sun as 93,200,000 miles, which only shows how accurate were the Vedic seers in arriving at the various astronomical calculations many, many centuries ago.
Vishnu Purana enlightens us on how cosmic consciousness had its origins. Our ancestors certainly knew more about the cosmos than many of us are willing to give them credit for. Vishnu Purana, for instance, states one axle of the Sun'schariot is 15,700,000 yojanas long. It is the distance between the centre of the Sun which is one wheel and the North Pole which forms the other wheel for the movement of the Earth around the Sun.
And how did the individual consciousness evolve? What were the various stages of human evolution? Damodaran starts with the Indian concept of evolution as depicted in the Vishnu Purana which treats the evolutionary theory of life in the 10 incarnations of Vishnu in terms of matsya (fish), kurma (tortoise), varaha (bear), Narasimha (half-man, half-lion), vamana (miniature man), Parasurama, Shri Rama, Krishna and Kalki. From thereon he presents contemporary theories to complete the study. Then there is the study of how man learnt to communicate with his fellowmen and the growth of language. As usual Damodaran starts with the evolution of Sanskrit, how the Vedic culture remained on the lips of the people in oral tradition, considering that first the thought had to be translated into words and words into script and script into speech through the establishment of a co-relationship between the two. When the German scholar, Friedrich Rosen, published the Rig Veda in eight parts in London in 1838, it was brought out by him that Vedic literature contains many forms which became extinct in later Sanskrit but which existed in similar forms in Greek and other Indo-European languages. But, it was Sir William Jones who made the famous comment on Sanskrit in 1795, to the effect that ?the Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined than either??
Later on, Damodaran tries to explain what is meant by ?precept?, ?recept? and ?concept? in an effort to explain individual consciousness. According to him, a precept is a sense impression. When we hear a sound, or see an object, an impression is created in our mind in the form of a precept. A recept is a composite image of hundreds and thousands of precepts. When a recept is named and classified by a symbol produced by a sound or a visual image, it becomes identifiable. A cluster of identifiable precepts and recepts thus creates a concept. A concept is a consolidated image of many homogenous precepts and recepts.
Sage Kapila, author of the Sankhya Sutras, is credited with starting the theistic movement. Patanjali modified the Sankhya system of thought, reconciling spirit and matter in a process of yoga by yoking or uniting these two divergent aspects of existence. It is a method of regulating the mind whereby prakriti is isolated from purusha. The last chapters on self-realisation, faith and reason take us to the ultimate in human destiny.
Is Damodaran'sthesis acceptable? Is it built on solid grounds? That is for the reader to assess. What Damodaran has done is to let us roam in the wilds of thought and that, by itself, is an achievement of sorts. Apt is the way he ends his studies with a quotation from Ishopanishad: Poornamada poornamidam which says it all.