Quest for inner spiritual space through letters
By Manju Gupta
This book is a collection of letters by two thinkers?Sri Krishnaprema & Sri Madhava Ashish?written to Dr Karan Singh during a period of almost four decades. The letters cover a whole spectrum of subjects concerning the inner spiritual quest and its relation to the outer life.
Sri Krishnaprem lived in a small village called Mirtola, a few miles beyond Almora. It was in mid 1957 that Dr Karan Singh began corresponding with him and his disciple Sri Madhava Ashish, and continued doing so until the latter passed away in 1997. Dr Karan Singh talked with both of them in Mirtola, and discovered that ?they looked upon life as a series of concentric circles, each covering different areas of activity, but all centred in the self. Here were the great teachings of the Upanishads brought alive by a pair of vibrant Englishmen born and raised ten thousand miles away from India??
On going through the book, one notices a subtle difference of style in the letters of Sri Krishnaprem and Sri Madhava Ashish. The former reflects a spiritual insight, while the latter does the same, but is more focused upon outer events in the country, such as the Chinese invasion, the Emergency, Hindu revivalism and so on.
Talking of wealth, Sri Madhava Ashish asks, ?Do you ever think that wealth could bring satisfaction? Look around you. The ?haves? and the ?have-nots? are equally struggling to get more or to hold what they have, whether that be money, name or knowledge. The only thing that gives lasting satisfaction is that which cannot be lost and which transcends birth and death. Only when all hopes and fears towards any of the appurtenances of the empirical self are abandoned can even a shadow of that satisfaction approach.?
He expounds, ?However fortunately we may be placed, life has its times of trouble and strain and if we are wise, we accept the fact not only that this must be so, but that it is good that it should be so.?
On Chinese invasion and infiltration into NEFA, while the people were worried over the unpleasant possibility that perhaps the Chinese really would overrun India, and communism would spread in its wake, Sri Krishnaprem referred to an episode in the Mahabharata, to ask, ?Do your remember how during the battle of Kurukshetra, Asvatthama was just on the point of destroying Arjuna? He had already let fly his brahmastra weapon, which nothing could stop or avert before it reached its mark. Well, Krishna pressed down his foot, and the chariot wheels sank a foot or two into the earth, and the fatal arrow passed harmlessly overhead. I believe that at the critical moment, Krishna will always press his foot down. India will be saved. India can never lose her soul.?
He had somewhat different views on the use of Sanskrit language. ?If a language is rich, it is surely because the men who used it lived a rich intellectual life. We may make a bow to the richness of the past, but we should be concerned to encourage a present richness of thought and feeling, and to encourage its expression in the language of the present which must be sufficiently flexible to adapt to the modes of the present.?
On Smt. Indira Gandhi, Sri Madhava Ashish had said, ?As I read her character, she feels threatened by the intelligentsia and likes to feel herself secure in her charismatic appeal to the common people. If she can be persuaded that her popularity with the people is not reflected by her political maturity, which appears to be the case, and that an efficient and just government will win her popularity, expression of her megalomaniac ambition may be delayed until her actual shortcomings, including those of her son, may bring about her downfall.?
About the declaration of state of Emergency, he said, ?I suggest that the 1980 election results read in relation to the 1977 results do not reflect a people'smandate in favour of Emergency measures. The people believe that she has the ability to produce better results than the Janata/Charan Singh governments. They have (misguidedly) voted for her abilities, not for dictatorship? If she is delayed sufficiently, she might even settle down to being a good Prime Minister. But, I do not believe that she has the greatness and ability necessary to handle the almost insuperable problems that face both India and the world. Economic facts will destroy her popularity, whether she becomes a dictator or not.?
The letters may prove of sufficient value to seekers of the spiritual path.
(Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kulpati Munshi Marg, Mumbai-400007.)