Sunday, December 24, 2023

Revering the Inanimate (published in The Economic Times -Speaking Tree column on the editorial page) date 22-12-23

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The above article was published in The Economic Times (Speaking Tree column on the editorial page).

The original version (before being edited for publishing) is here below-

Reverence towards all

There was quite an outrage in our country recently over Mitchell Marsh’ putting his feet on the World Cup trophy. The rest of the world, interestingly, was totally indifferent to the act. This shouldn’t be a surprise actually. The sentiment of reverence towards all things is an attribute particular to the Indian ethos. Whether it’s an artist stepping on the stage, a player entering the stadium, or a driver beginning on a journey, he or she bows in obeisance before embarking. It has been there in our subconscious since childhood to pick up a pencil or a book that has fallen down and immediately touch them to our foreheads in reverence. One can see the lawyers bowing their heads to the bench while entering or leaving the court rooms. And, these are all reflex actions performed without a thought.

Reverence towards all things – animate or inanimate – is part of our psyche. Perhaps it originates from the non-dualistic philosophy which has been expressed in these Mahavakyas, or great statements in the Upanishads -   Aham Brahmasmi – I am Brahman (the Absolute); Tat Tvam Asi – That Thou Art;  Ayam Atma Brahma – This Self is Brahman. These Mahavakyas convey the essential teaching of the Upanishads, namely, the individual self which appears as a separate existence, is in essence part and manifestation of the whole.

This reverence towards all things is perhaps that which makes us tolerant, large-minded and all encompassing. This is perhaps that on which the foundation of our belief in truth, justice and, dharma (right conduct) exists. This perhaps is the reason that one doesn’t dare lie when one holds Ganga jal in one’s palm.  And, this perhaps, is the basis of the adage in that famous story ‘Panch Parmeshwar’  by Munshi Premchand – ‘God himself speaks through the voice of the panchayat’

However, it seems that this sentiment of reverence has been undergoing abatement with the growth of consumerism and individualism; and with it the notions of truth, justice and dharma too seem to have been dissipating.

It’s essential therefore, that we do not lose our feelings of reverence for all; because losing it shall be sounding the death knell for both ourselves, and the society.


Dr (Skand Shukla)


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