Monday, September 19, 2016

Author of the Day: Annie Besant

One of the sources I used for the Public Domain Edition of the Mahabharata is a book by Annie Besant: The Story of the Great War (1899). Annie Besant, who lived from 1847 to 1933, was a leading member of the Theosophy movement and also a supporter of Indian independence. You can read more about her life and accomplishments at Wikipedia.

If you want to read The Story of the Great War, you can do that for one, two, or three weeks of reading during the second half of the semester: Overview - Reading Guide.

Although she was once married to a clergyman, Annie Besant rejected Christianity and spent some time as a member of England's National Secular Society, but then in 1980 she met Helena Blavatsky, a co-founder of the Theosophical Society. Because of her interest in theosophy, Annie Besant traveled to India, and she eventually became president of the Theosophical Society which had its headquarters in India. She was also a member of the Indian National Congress, and was elected president of the Congress in 1917.

You can find many of Besant's books online, including her Introduction to Yoga, her translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, along with her autobiography. This photograph of Besant dates to 1897:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Names of Hanuman

For Hanuman Jayanti this year (the holiday celebrating Hanuman's birth), Epified TV released this nice video that shows some of the different names of Hanuman:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Today's Featured Author: Kamban (Kambar)

To follow up on the previous post about R. K. Narayan, I wanted to say something about the medieval Tamil poet Kamban, since it is his version of the Ramayana that Narayan relied on to create the English-language Ramayana that you might be reading for class.

You can start with article about Kamban at Wikipedia, and there is also an article about his version of the Ramayana, the Ramavataram, which he composed probably around the year 1200 (although there is debate about that). The overall structure follows that of the Sanskrit version of Valmiki, but Kamban's work has many charming features of its own, and in his English adaptation R. K. Narayan sometimes refers to what "the poet" is doing in a particular scene — the poet he is referring to is Kamban.

If you would like to learn more about Kamban's version of the story and its distinctive features in more detail, you might enjoy this article online: Fire and Flood: The Testing of Sita in Kampan's Iramavataram by David Shulman.

Kamban the Procrastinator...

There is a great legend about Kamban and his poem, which says that he had put off composing the poem. When it was the night before the day when he was required to present the poem to the king, he imposed the help of the elephant-headed god Ganesha, who wrote down the whole poem that night as Kamban dictated it to him. You will also hear a similar story about how Ganesha was the scribe of the Mahabharata who wrote while the poet Vyasa dictated to him — but that story does not involve the procrastination factor as Kamban's story does.

If you are not familiar with the term "Tamil," you can learn more at Wikipedia, with articles about the Tamil people, Tamil language, and the state of Tamil Nadu, which is where Kamban lived.

The image below is a statue in Kamban's honor:

Full view:

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