India needs a cultural renaissance to spread the treasure of ancient knowledge: Vice President

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New Delhi: The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has said that India needs a cultural renaissance, a large scale awareness and knowledge-sharing movement to bring the best in the Indian thought to the common man.

Asserting that “share and care” was the core of Indian philosophy, the Vice President stressed the need to create a society that actually demonstrates Indian philosophy.

Addressing the gathering after releasing the books – Vivekadeepini, a concise book of aphorisms that contains glimpses of India’s wisdom in English and nine Indian languages, the Vice President said that Indians have been fortunate that spiritual leaders like Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda have shaped our country’s ethical foundations.

Shri Naidu said that the pieces of wisdom initially written by Adi Shankaracharya in Prashnottara Ratnamalika have universal relevance irrespective of religion or community and they represent the ethical and moral perspectives underpinning the Indian world view.

“You will agree that these pieces of wisdom are truly universal. It is the intellectual legacy every Indian should not only be proud of but live those values in everyday life,” he added.

Shri Naidu wanted schools and colleges across the country to take the lead along with non-governmental organisations like Vedanta Bharati to spread the universal message of tolerance, inclusion, harmony, peace, well-being, righteous conduct, excellence and empathy that recurs in the Indian spiritual tradition with resounding clarity.

Observing that one must rediscover India’s ancient knowledge, a treasure whose positive impact has been felt around the globe, Shri Naidu said that it was an essential link to the past. “It is a treasure that constantly inspires us to be at the global level the voice of peace, of ethical conduct and sustainable development”, he added.

Shri Naidu appreciated the efforts of the publishers for translating it into nine Indian languages and said that there was an urgent need to undertake more such efforts to spread the knowledge of ancient India.

The Vice President also complimented Vedanta Bharati for spreading the wisdom of Sri Adi Sankaracharya in English, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia and Gujarati languages. Stating that the message should reach people in its true sense, he expressed the hope that Vivekadeepini would be brought out in all the Indian languages.

Stressing the need to promote the use of mother tongues, he pointed out that language and culture go together.

Calling for ending gender and other forms of discrimination, he said casteism was the biggest bane of the society and must be removed at the earliest.

The Peethadhipathi of Yadathore Sri Yoganadeshwara Saraswathi Math, Sri Sri Shankara Bharathi Swamiji, the Director of Vedanta Bharati, Dr. Sridhar Bhat Ainakai, the Trustees of Vedanta Bharati, Shri A. Ramaswamy, Shri S.S. Naganand & Shri C.S. Gopalakrishna and other dignitaries were present at the event.

Following is the text of Vice President’s address:

“I am extremely pleased to have joined you on this occasion to release Vivekadeepini, a concise book of aphorisms that contains glimpses of India’s wisdom in most lucid language.

I am happy to release this book and hope that it will enable a wider audience to appreciate the classic work, ‘Prashnottara Ratnamalika’ written by one of India’s greatest spiritual and literary geniuses, Sri Adi Sankaracharya.

I compliment Vedanta Bharati and Shri S.S. Naganand ji for taking up this endeavour to spread the wisdom of Sri Adi Sankaracharya in English, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Odia, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi and Gujarati languages. I am glad to know that select verses of Vivekadeepini are being taught to the students of some 10,000 schools in Karnataka. I am sure that your admirable project of translating Vivekadeepini into different Indian languages will spread the universal message of Indian wisdom among many more schools in different States across the country and to a much larger audience.

Sisters and brothers,

We, in India, have been fortunate that, over the years, spiritual leaders like Adi Shankara and Swami Vivekananda have shaped our country’s ethical foundations.

Dear sisters and brothers,

Drawn from the 67 verses of Prashnottara Ratnamalika written by Adi Shankaracharya, the Vivekadeepini is a compilation of select 36 verses which are in the question-answer format.

These pieces of wisdom have universal relevance irrespective of religion or community.

They represent the ethical and moral perspectives underpinning the Indian world view.

Sisters and brothers,

The book is called “Prashnottara Ratnamalika”, a garland of gem-like questions and answers. It touches upon a number of key themes and gives short answers to important questions. For example, to the question, “who is Pandita or a learned person”? the answer is “Viveki”, “one who has wisdom”. To the question as to what constitutes purity, the answer is “Yasya Maanasam shudham” (whose mind is pure). The verses define human quest for happiness, fulfilment and knowledge that empowers and ennobles.

To the student’s question of “Kim Satyam” (What is truth?)” the teacher replies “Bhootahitam” or the “welfare of all beings”. The accent is on good behaviour. A Sadhu is defined as a person with ‘good conduct’.

This short book Vivekadeepini is a summary of the Prashnottara Ratnamalika. It is heartening that the books has been translated into ten Indian languages. We need more of these kind of efforts to spread the knowledge of ancient India.

We have a vast treasure in our country. It is a treasure whose positive impact has been felt around the globe. It is a treasure that constantly inspires us to be at the global level the voice of peace, of ethical conduct and sustainable development.

It is the path of dharma, the path that sustains us and makes us follow a path that is good not only for ourselves but for the whole humanity and the entire planet.

We must rediscover this ancient knowledge which, sometimes, tends to become unseen and unheard and therefore not fully understood.

If we don’t know about this treasure, we lose a vital link with the past. We lose the ability to enrich our present.

We need to build that link to that noble thought process, adapt it to our contemporary life context.

Adi Shankara’s works are among the finest literary works in world literature apart from their extraordinary depth in terms of spiritual insights. They enlighten us and enthral us. They and other noble thoughts of Indian seers strengthen the ethical pillars of our society. But this can happen only through awareness, study and what is most important, internalization and behaviour change.

The verses in this book contain universal truths. They are the starting points for reflection.

For example, Verse 16 the question is “Who is your friend? The reply is “One who does not allow you to commit sin is your best friend.”

“What is decoration?” The reply says, “Character is true decoration”.

Verse 18 tell us about four auspicious deeds one must perform as often as possible – Charity with kind words, Knowledge without pride, Valour with forbearance, Wealth with Charity.

You will agree that these pieces of wisdom are truly universal. It is the intellectual legacy every India should not only be proud of but live those values in everyday life.

What we need is a cultural renaissance, a large scale awareness and knowledge sharing movement that brings the best in the Indian thought to the common man.

Our schools and colleges should take the lead along with non-governmental organisations like Vedanta Bharati to spread the universal message of tolerance, inclusion, harmony, peace, well-being, righteous conduct, excellence and empathy that recurs in the Indian spiritual tradition with resounding clarity.

We must create a society that actually demonstrates the core Indian philosophy and values of “share and care”.

I am happy that Vedanta Bharati has taken up this onerous responsibility to connect our citizens with our intellectual tradition. I would suggest that Vedanta Bharati should continue this gnana yagna and contribute to building a new India on the ethical foundations laid by long lineage of sages and thinkers in the last two thousand years.

I once again congratulate Shri S.S. Naganand ji for writing such lucid commentary. I wish him and Vedanta Bharati every success in bringing out many more useful publications in the future.

Jai Hind.”