Monday, August 22, 2016

Today's Featured Author: R. K. Narayan

Today's featured author is R. K. NARAYAN, one of India's best-known English-language authors. His short prose versions of the Ramayana and of the Mahabharata are both on the reading list for this class.

Narayan (Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami) was born in 1906 and died in 2001 at the age of 94 — and thus he witnessed most of the tumultuous 20th century in India. You can read about his life and career in this detailed Wikipedia article. He is best known as a novelist and a writer of short stories, turning to these epic projects only in the 1970s, very late in his career. Narayan's version of the Ramayana is remarkable because it is based, not on Valmiki, but instead on Kamban's Tamil version of the Ramayana, which is in turn based on Valmiki but which also has a personality all its own.

This brief video gives you an overview of his life:

Narayan was featured in a Google Doodle:

And a postage stamp was also issued in his honor:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Overview: Pattanaik. Seven Secrets of Vishnu.

Title: Seven Secrets of Vishnu
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Year: 2011

Free Online: You can watch the videos for free at YouTube.

Length: three weeks. I've divided the videos into six parts: A - B (one week), then C - D (second week), and E - F (third week).

Part A - Mohini
Part B - Matsya 
Part C - Kurma
Part D - Trivikrama 
Part E - Rama
Part F - Krishna

(the book also has a section on Kalki, but at the start of the Fall semester, that video was not out yet)

Epified: Krishna

(Part A Playlist)

Title:  Krishna
Author:  Epified TV (India)
Year:  2015

Comments: If you like the style of the Epified Mahabharata videos, you might like their Krisha series too!

Free Online. You can watch this online for free at YouTube!

Length: one weeks. I've made two playlists, one for the Part A (see above) and Part B (see below), with links to the individual episodes also.

(Part B Playlist)

Episode List: A

Krishna Comes - An Introduction
Krishna Episode 1 - Kamsa
Krishna Episode 2 - Vasudev Meets Yamuna
Krishna Episode 3 - Durga Speaks to Kamsa
Krishna Episode 4 - Putana
Krishna Episode 5 - Maakhan Chor
Krishna Episode 6- Krishna's mouth
Krishna Episode 7 - Dreams and Music
Krishna Episode 8 - Kamsa's Terrors
Krishna Episode 9 - The Govardhan Hill
Krishna Episode 10 - Radha's love

Episode List: B

Krishna Episode 11- Krishna Humbles Brahma
Krishna Episode 12 - Krishna rides Hastin
Krishna Episode 13 - The Saviour of Dharma
Krishna Episode 14 - Akrur Invites Krishna
Krishna Episode 15 - Krishna's Farewell
Krishna Episode 16 - Krishna Arrives At Mathura
Krishna Episode 17 - Krishna Kills Kuvalayapida
Krishna Episode 18 - Krishna Kills Kamsa
Krishna Episode 19 - Freedom For Mathura
Krishna Episode 20 - Dwarka - Krishna's Kingdom

Overview: Pattanaik. Business Sutra.

Title: Business Sutra
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Year: 2013

Comments: This is an unusual book — unlike the other reading options for this class, it is not a collection of stories exactly, but it does contain many (many!) stories. I am sure this is an option that the Business majors in class would enjoy, along with students looking for a contemporary perspective on the meaning of the epics for India today. Now that you are familiar with both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, you will appreciate all the mythological examples that Devdutt Pattanaik uses in the book, and in turn the book will give you new insight into the stories!

Length: six weeks. This is a big book, appx. 450 pages long, which means you can use it for reading for all six weeks from Week 9-14, although you can also choose to just read it for one, two, or three weeks, etc. Please make sure you start at the beginning so that you will be familiar with Pattanaik's terminology, and I've also written some Reading Guides to get you going! See the links to the Reading Guides below.

Kindle. The book is available for purchase at Amazon as a Kindle book for $9.99.

Audible. There is also an audiobook version from for $9.95, and I've indicated the Audible chapter numbers below (the Audible chapter numbering starts with Chapter 3, so the book's Chapter 1 is Audible Chapter 3... weird, but that's how Audible numbers things).

The book itself is a delight to read, and it is also full of Pattanaik's thought-provoking illustrations, like these:

Week 1 Reading A: Reading Guide
Audible Chapter 3: Introduction  
Connecting Belief to Business
Belief, Myth, and Mythology
Decoding Culture
Connecting Mythology and Management
Becoming Chief Belief Officer
Design of the Book

Week 1 Reading B: Reading Guide
Audible Chapter 4: From Goal to Gaze 
Western Beliefs
Chinese Beliefs
Indian Beliefs

Week 2 Reading C: Reading Guide
Audible Chapter 5: Business Sutra
Kama's Vision Statement:
Human hunger is unique
Imagination expands human hunger
Only humans can exchange
Every devata seeks a high return on investment
Conflict is inherent in exchange
Imagination can help humans outgrow hunger
Human hunger for the intangible is often overlooked
There are three types of food that can be exchanged during a yagna
We have to make room for the Other
Yagna can be a tool for personal growth, if we allow it to be

Week 2 Reading D: Reading Guide
Audible Chapter 6: Decisions
Drishti, observing objective reality
He who takes a call is a karta
Every one is a potential karta
A karta who allows and enables others to take a call is a yajaman
A yajaman has the power to take and give life
The size of the contribution does not matter
All calls are subjective
All decisions are contextual
Not everyone can handle the burden of uncertainty
Every decision has a consequence
Decisions are good or bad only in hindsight
Decisions are often rationalized in hindsight
If the decision is bad, the yajaman alone is responsible
If the decision is good, the yajaman is the beneficiary

Week 3 Reading E: Reading Guide
Audible Chapter 7: Violence
Business is violent
Violence is not always apparent
Mental violence is also violence
Violence creates winners and losers
Violence is culturally unacceptable if taking is not accompanied by giving
Violence becomes culturally acceptable when we take because no one gives
Exploitation is violence
Hoarding is violence
Hunger is insatiable
Regeneration ensures sustainable wealth
Restraint ensures regeneration
Restraint is violent

[Section 3E is short, while 3F is long, so I would urge you to move right on to that next part of the reading now to get a head start on that.]

Week 3 Reading F: Reading Guide
Audible Chapter 8: Seduction  
Business is seduction
He who satisfies hunger becomes desirable
Many devatas need to be seduced
Every devata has a devata of his own
Every devata's hunger is unique
Every devata matters depending on the context
Not all devatas are equal
Seducing multiple devatas is very demanding
Seduction needs to satisfy both parties
Sometimes, the yajaman also needs to be seduced
Audible Chapter 9: Churning   
The organization is ultimately a set of people
Every organization is a churn
If strategy is the force, then tactic is the counter-force
If creativity is the force, then process is the counter-force
If ambition is the force, then contentment is the counterforce
If hindsight is the force, then foresight is the counterforce
Upstream forces need to be balanced by downstream forces
Balance is the key to avoid a tug of war
The impact of an organizational decision varies depending on the source
In a shifting world, organizations need to be organisms
In an organism, individual potential and context are taken into consideration
Organisms thrive when the yajaman is flexible

[I am not sure if people are going to want to read this for as many as four, five, or six weeks, so I have not written any more reading guides, but if people are interested, I can certainly write more guides!]

Week 4 Reading G: 
Audible Chapter 10: Significance 
Every devata imagines himself differently from natural reality
Only another human being can endorse the mental image
We defend our mental image at any cost
We are terrified of how strangers will evaluate us
Praise empowers us
Insults disempower us
Comparison grants us value
We seek hierarchies that favour us
We would rather be unique than equal
Culture provides only a temporary framework for our social body

[Section 4G is short, while 4H is long, so I would urge you to move right on to that next part of the reading now to get a head start on that.]

Week 4 Reading H:
Audible Chapter 11: Property 
We see things not thoughts
Things help us position ourselves
Things are surrogate markers of our value
Thoughts can be coded into things
We assume we are what we have
We expect things to transform us
The loss of possessions reveals who we really are
Like things, talent and loyalty can also make us feel secure
A transaction is about things, not thoughts
A relationship is about thoughts, not things
Audible Chapter 12: Rules  
There are no thieves in the jungle
Without rules there is territory, not property
Rules domesticate the human-animal
Domestication can be voluntary and involuntary
We dislike those who are indifferent to rules
Rules can be oppressive
Rules create underdogs and outsiders
Rules create mimics and pretenders
We want to live by our own rules
Innovation is not possible unless rules are broken
We respect those who uphold rules
Rules need not determine our value

Week 5 Reading I:
Audible Chapter 13: Stability  
When the world changes, our social body dies
We want organizations to secure our social body
We resist anything that is new
We want to control change Insecurity turns us into villains
Our stability prevents other people's growth
We would rather change the world than ourselves
When the context changes, we have to change
Unless we change, we cannot grow
We will always resist change
Adapting to change is not growth

Week 5 Reading J:
Audible Chapter 14: Isolation  
The gaze can be cruel or caring
Everyone seeks a caring gaze
We want to be seen as we imagine ourselves
A cruel gaze focuses on our compliance rather than our capability
Unseen, we are compelled to fend for ourselves
We refuse to see ourselves as villains
We use work as a beacon to get attention
Our goals justify our lack of a caring gaze
Audible Chapter 15: Reflection  
Fear isolates us while imagination connects us
We often forget that others see the world differently
How we see others reveals who we are
How others see us reveals who we are
The Other reveals the power of our gaze
The Other reveals our insensitivity
The Other reveals our inadequacy
The Other reveals our blindness

Week 6 Reading K:
Audible Chapter 16: Expansion  
Growth happens when the mind expands
Growth is about pursuing thoughts not things
Growth is indicated when we prefer giving than taking
Growth happens when more people can depend on us
Growth happens when even the insignificant become significant
Growth happens when we include those whom we once excluded
Growth happens when we stop seeing people as villains
Growth happens when we seek to uplift the Other
Audible Chapter 17: Inclusion (start)
More yajamans are needed as an organization grows
The yajaman has to turn devatas into yajamans
Creating talent enables us to grow
We seek to inherit things, not thoughts
Being a yajaman is about gaze, not skills

Week 6 Reading L:
Audible Chapter 17: Inclusion (finish)
Questions teach us, not answers
We resist advice and instructions
Discourses never transform us
Crisis increases the chances of learning
Power play underlies the process of teaching
To teach, we have to learn to let go
Only when teachers are willing to learn does growth happen
Growth in thought brings about growth in action
To provoke thought, we have to learn patience
Closures are a time for introspection
Who we include as a devata reveals the meaning we give ourselves
The resources we see reveal what we give meaning to
Who we include as a devata reveals who we find meaningful
How the devata sees the yajaman reveals the gap in meaning
The tathastu we give reveals the meaning we seek
We alone decide if we need more meaning, another yagna

Overview: Epified Mahabharata

Title:  The Mahabharata: Karmic Revolution
Author:  Epified TV (India)
Year:  2015-2016 (new episodes are still being added)

Comments: Slowly but surely, Epified TV in India is making its way through the entire Mahabharata with these wonderful animated short episodes.

Free Online. You can watch this online for free at YouTube!

Length: three weeks. I've made six separate playlists which you can use for three weeks of viewing/reading: Part A - Part B (one week), Part C - Part D (second week) and Part E - Part F (third week).

Overview: Paley. Sita Sings the Blues

Author: Nina Paley
Title: Sita Sings the Blues
Year: 2008

Comments: Nina Paley's film, Sita Sings the Blues, is a full-length animated version of the Ramayana, focusing on Sita, and you can watch it for free at YouTube, thanks to the generosity of Nina Paley, who has put the film into the public domain! The film is woven together from three parts: the ancient story of Sita and Rama, commentary from three modern Indian narrators (who each have their own perspective on the story), and then the the story of Nina and her boyfriend Dave. You can find out more about Nina Paley and her work here: Nina Paley. The soundtrack consists of blues songs; you can see a complete list of the songs here.

Free Online: You can watch the film for free at YouTube.

Length: one week. The film is appx. 90 minutes long, divided into two parts, Part A and Part B. There is a detailed reading guide at the bottom of this post with film times plus notes.

Part A
0:00 Lakshmi rises from the sea with a phonograph.
0:03 The cosmos: Shiva in a ring of fire, Brahma, Lakshmi and Vishnu resting on Shesha, Surya the sun god, Chandra the moon god, the beating heart of the universe, and Bhumi the earth goddess.
0:05 San Francisco. We see Nina, her boyfriend Dave, and their cat. They are all very happy. The boyfriend gets a job in India.
0:07 The three narrators argue about the date of the Ramayana. They also argue about whether it is true or not, and about where the story took place.
0:08 King Dasharatha has three wives and four sons. Sita, daughter of Janaka, is Rama's wife. Queen Kaikeyi makes Dasharatha send Rama into exile. He dies of grief after Rama leaves.
0:11 Despite Rama's warnings about the rakshasas in the forest, Sita goes into exile with him. The phonograph plays a song while they go into the forest where they live happily while Rama slays rakshasas.
0:14 San Francisco airport: Nina kisses her boyfriend goodbye.
0:15 The narrators discuss Ravana who stole Sita. Ravana some say was a good king, but they also compare him to Mogambo the Hindi film villain. Ravana was so devoted to Shiva that he played the veena (lute) for him with his intestines: this refers to the legend that when a string on the veena broke, Ravana used his own guts to continue playing so that he would not interrupt the song. He was the king of Sri Lanka, and there was an ancient land bridge connecting India to the island.
0:17 Surpanakha is Ravana's sister. Angry at Rama, Surpanakha tells Ravana about Sita. Maricha tells Ravana to leave Sita alone but Ravana commands Maricha to become a golden deer to distract Rama so he can grab Sita.
0:18 Sita is enchanted by the golden deer. Rama suspects a trick, but Sita begs him to pursue the deer.
0:19 Sita sings about her love for Rama, while Ravana sneaks up on their forest hut.
0:21 Ravana abducts Sita in his flying chariot.
0:22 Sita drops her jewelry as a sign; Rama seeks her in the forest.
0:23 Hanuman: The narrators discuss Vishnu's incarnation as Hanuman, and one narrator mentions Shiva's incarnation as Hanuman (the other narrators had not heard about that, and it is indeed a later tradition).
0:24 Rama and Hanuman become allies. Rama sends Hanuman to look for Sita.
0:25 San Francisco: Dave calls Nina to invite her to India.
0:26 Sita is held captive in Lanka, and she weeps for Rama. She rejects Ravana's advances.
0:27 Hanuman finds Sita in Lanka while Sita sings the blues. He sets Lanka on fire and then returns to Rama.
0:31 The narrators argue about why Sita did not escape with Hanuman. Meanwhile, Nina goes to India.
0:32 The narrators argue about whether the monkeys were monkeys or half-monkey and half-man. Rama leads his monkey army to Lanka.
0:33 Sita sings with joy while Rama battles the rakshasas and slays Ravana.
0:36 Nina arrives in India, but Dave tells her not to kiss in public. They don't kiss in bed either.
0:37 The narrators discuss how Rama was cold to Sita after rescuing her.
0:38 Sita and Rama are reunited, but he rejects her because she lived in another man's house. He sends her away. Sita despairs.
0:39 Sita asks for a funeral pyre. The narrators argue about how to interpret this part of the story.
0:40 Sita sings the blues while she undergoes a test by fire, protected by Agni the fire god.
0:43 Rama asks for Sita's forgiveness.
0:44 Nina and Dave are working in the same office in India. Nina goes to New York for a week.
0:45 The narrators discuss the flying chariot, Pushpaka, that takes Rama and Sita back to Ayodhya.
0:46 Sita sings the blues again: if you want the rainbow, you must have the rain.

Part B
0:51 Dave breaks up with Nina by email when she is in New York. Her heart breaks and she burns with grief.
0:55 Sita tells Rama she is pregnant. Meanwhile, a laundry man (a dhobi) beats his wife, accusing her of being unfaithful and comparing her to Sita.
0:56 To protect his reputation, Rama tells his brother Lakshmana to take Sita into the forest and abandon her. The narrators debate these events.
0:57 Sita, now very pregnant, sings the blues again. Lakshmana, weeping, takes her into the forest and abandons her.
1:00 Nina is living in Brooklyn, and she dreams about Dave.
1:01 Sita thinks it is karma from a past life that is bringing her grief. She would kill herself if she were not pregnant. Valmiki rescues her.
1:02 Sita sings the blues on the shore of the river.
1:04 She gives birth to twins, Lava and Kusha. From Valmiki, they learn to sing the praises of Rama.
1:06 Nina calls Dave in India and begs him to take her back.
1:07 The narrators debate Sita's devotion to Rama.
1:08 Sita sings the blues again, looking at Rama's picture.
1:11 Rama hears the boys singing in the forest. He learns they are his sons, and they learn Rama is his father. He asks that Sita once again prove her purity.
1:12 Sita calls upon Mother Earth to prove her purity and take her back into the womb.
1:13 Sita sings about her love for Rama one last time, and then leaves them behind.
1:16 In New York, Nina reads the Ramayana and works on the film.
1:17 You see Chandra the moon god, Vishnu rubbing Lakshmi's feet (!), and the final credits roll.

Many thanks to Nina Paley
for putting this film in the public domain!

More about the remarkable Nina Paley.

Overview: Pattanaik. Seven Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art.

Title: Seven Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Year: 2009

Free Online: You can watch the videos for free at YouTube.

Length: three weeks. I've divided the videos into six parts: A - B (one week), then C - D (second week), and E - F (third week). You can also use these as an "extra reading" option, in which case you could spread it out over six weeks of the course:

Part A - Ganesha
Part B - Narayan
Part C - Ardhanari, Shiva
Part D - Shiva, Devi
Part E - Vishnu
Part F - Brahma

Reading Guides. I've also written up quotations from the video for you to use as a reference (I have a print copy of the book), so you do not have to do any summarizing in your notes. As always, focus on your favorite details and favorite moments in the videos. This is sometimes complicated material, and it is probably going to be new to you, so you might need to listen to the video twice before you write up your notes. For the first listen, just go with the flow and don't write anything down, and then as you listen to the video the second time, take some notes to put in your blog post.