Karan Singh: I Believe, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 76 pp, Rs 90.00
Considering the troubled age we are living in, an age full of unprecedented opportunities along with conflicts and clashes of ideologies, nationalisms and even of civilisations, this book by profound thinker and statesman Dr Karan Singh comes as a whiff of fresh air, and that too on his 75th birthday which was celebrated this year on March 9.
Dr Karan Singh gives voice to his thoughts and ideas that flow from the totality of experience to which he has been exposed. To quote him, ?In many ways my exposure has been varied and intense than that falls to the lot of most people. There are four main sets of factors that have moulded my thinking – books, music, travel and people. In all four, I have had the good fortune of an extremely important and stimulating contact. In any case, I have tried briefly to identify the major beliefs I have come to hold, even though I am acutely aware of the difficulties in expressing complex ideas in simple words.?
Dr Karan Singh believes that man, still in an indeterminate stage between the animal and the divine, can raise himself to a higher plane of being if he makes a conscious and determined effort to do so. He believes that every human born on Earth carries within himself/herself ?an unquenchable spark of divinity? that needs to be fanned to attain realisation. It no doubt is true that this spark energises our consciousness and this has been corroborated by even our Upanishads which claim that the spark exists ?within the farthest golden sheath? of our consciousness. To join our spiritual core with the divine, we need to adopt four yogas – jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga and raja yoga. When expounding on jnana yoga, Dr Karan Singh draws upon the similarities between what our Upanishads say and Plato'sconcept. For defining bhakti yoga, he draws parallel of worship of Shiva or Vishnu with the worship of Jesus Christ in the West; for karma yoga he leans heavily on the Gita and praises Swami Vivekananda as a practical practitioner of it. For raja yoga, he lays stress on the practice of physical and mental exercises.
Dr Karan Singh says divinity is to be fostered by directing ?all political, economic and social activities? towards realising this objective. In any case, prima facie, it is self-evident that all such activities should have as their goal the furthering of the welfare of various sections of the society. He advocates use of technology ?tempered with wisdom? so that it becomes a force of progress and not of destruction.
He believes that at their highest level, all religions lead to the same goal – ?the ineffable and incurable union between the human and the divine? and that ?strife and hatred in the name of religion is the very antithesis of spirituality and a gross slur on the name of humanity?.
Dr Karan Singh believes that India with its unique heritage stretching far back to the very dawn of civilisation has a special role to play in political integration, economic growth, social transformation and secular democracy. He speaks glowingly about the Vedas from which Hinduism has emerged. In addition to Hinduism, he showers praise on Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, with each of them adding a special flavour to the ?composite, pluralistic culture of India?. He concedes that ?while Jawaharlal Nehru'stheory of Panchsheel and non-alignment have obviously outlived their original significance due to dramatic changes in the world situation, the idea of developing countries maintaining close and friendly contacts remains valid.? He is convinced that if we can really get our act together, ?the years and decades ahead could well see India emerging as a truly great power, not merely in military terms but in the broader context of the emerging multi-polar global civilisation.?
Dr Karan Singh believes that it would be futile to talk of the spirit unless the needs and wants of the underprivileged and deprived are met. He quotes Swami Vivekananda who once said that to preach religion to a starving person was to insult him; ?first feed him properly and then give him your religion?. So the author advocates the need for development of a ?social conscience? to realise our debt to the society – the four debts – matri rin (debt to the mother who nourishes us in her body), pitri rin (debt to the father who supports us), guru rin (debt to our teacher who opens our eyes to knowledge) and finally, samaj rin (our debt to the society at large without which we would not flourish as a collective entity).
He believes that politics will always be turbulent because that is in the nature of politics; hence politics can be a powerful instrument for human transformation.
Dr Karan Singh believes that we must hold the present ?in trust for posterity? and we have to fulfil this responsibility so that we can repay the debt we owe to the past. Hence he emphasises on protection and preservation of the environment.
He believes that we should undertake our journey ?from the womb to the tomb? or to the pyre by following Shiva'steaching – yat yat karma karami tad tad akhilam Shambho tavaradhanam (whatever action I perform, I look upon it as an offering to Shiva).
Dr Karan Singh believes that love and friendship constitute the strongest bond in the world which is constantly changing.
He also believes that one must have identities beginning with ethno-linguistic and moving on to global in which ?identity interacts creatively with parallel identities in each particular dimension?. He quotes from the Upanishad – no bhadrah kritavo yantu vishwatah (let noble thoughts come to us from every side).
He believes that death itself can be a powerful learning experience which instead of facing with fear and horror, should be addressed with a calm and positive attitude.
Dr Karan Singh concludes with his final belief that a divine destiny pervades the cosmos-a destiny in which each one of us is actively involved. He quotes from the Upanishad: Ishavasmidam sarvam yat kimcha jagatyam jagat and adds we should postulate a spark of divinity within ourselves to fulfil our destiny. He concludes,
From the unreal led me to the real
From darkness lead me to the light
From death lead me to immortality.
Here is a book meant to be read by all philosophers and all thinking persons as the beliefs given could help us in countering the conflicts and clashes we frequently see around us.
(Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kulpati Munshi Marg, Mumbai-400 007.)