Book Announcement


(New York, NY)  Metanexus Institute announced today the publication of Indic Visions in an Age of Science as part of its continuing series of publications.  Indic Visions is the tenth book by the scientist and humanist Varadaraja V. Raman.  The book provides a detailed introduction to India’s religions with thoroughly contemporary interpretations thereof consistent with the insights of modern science. 

South Asia today is a nexus in a global civilization, its children and grandchildren having traveled to every corner of the world, frequently joining the educated elites abroad and making significant contributions to arts and letters, science and industry, politics and finance.  The continued story of Indian civilization is now a global and cosmopolitan enterprise and can no longer be contained in geographically boundaries in one corner of the world.  V.V. Raman is a gifted and gracious guide to the rich complexity of Indic civilization, always with a view to fostering peace and understanding amidst dangerous culture wars and clashing civilizations.  In ten succinct chapters, V.V. Raman traces the development of Indian religion, philosophy, and science from the distant past to contemporary times.

 Varadaraja V. Raman is an emeritus professor of physics and humanities at Rochester Institute of Technology.  He attended the University of Calcutta before completing graduate work on the foundations of quantum mechanics at the University of Paris under Louis de Broglie.  Raman has authored scores of papers on historical, social, and philosophical aspects of science, as well as on India’s heritage, and has authored nine previous books.  Raman is a Metanexus Senior Fellow and regular contributor to its online journal.

Critics have called Indic Visions “a must-read book for students, scholars, and enthusiasts,” “a truly remarkable and much-needed book,” and “a superb synthesis.”

William Grassie, Executive Director of the Metanexus Institute, welcomed the publication of Indic Visions. “Metanexus is extremely proud of our long association with V.V. Raman,” said Grassie, “and pleased to publish this important book. Raman bridges north and south, east and west, science and religion in ways that few people can.  He brings to bear deep erudition, multiple fluencies, and great spiritual sensitivities.”

http://amzn.to/nCUwUd.  V.V. Raman is available for interviews and speaking engagements. For more information, contact <editor @ metanexus.net>.

Indic Visions in an Age of Science

by V.V. Raman

To purchase the book on Amazon click:

http://amzn.to/nCUwUd

“Indic Visions is V.V. Raman’s magnum opus… Comprehensive, scholarly, and eminently readable, this work explores the great questions of humankind: the origins of life and the cosmos, the mind-body relation, the quest for knowledge and liberation, and the nature of the Ultimate. The more I immersed myself in these pages, the more my respect grows for the unparalleled achievements of Indian civilization–past and present– and the incredible author who has brought this altogether in this outstanding volume.”

– Philip Clayton, Claremont School of Theology

“Steeped in science and soaked in spirituality, V.V. Raman blends vast scholarship and deep insights into the rich heritage of India with the great promise of modern science. This book gives a general architecture for constructing a global culture. Timely, stimulating, scintillating…  Indic Visions should interest both scholars and students of science and culture in the East and the West.”

– Ramakrishna Rao, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi.

“In his usual lucid style, V.V. Raman presents a variety of Indic visions…  A must read book for students, scholars and enthusiasts who are interested not just in Indian culture and philosophy, but who are willing to contribute to the current intercultural and interdisciplinary discussions.”

– Sangeetha Menon, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India.

“A truly remarkable and much needed book.  Clear, concise, and highly informative.”

– Loyal Rue, Luther College, Iowa

Indic Visions is a superb synthesis. After reading it, one will be compelled to discard the uncritically repeated textbook narratives on Indian religion and science. The book will be invaluable to laypersons and scholars alike.”

— Subhash Kak, Oklahoma State University

“V. V. Raman’s Indic Vision offers a fascinating panoramic view of a vast terrain stretched across space and time… With its lucid literary style and easy flow of language, the book makes for an enjoyable yet profitable experience. It is highly recommended to both beginners and experts.”

– C.V. Vishveshwara, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore

 “Raman is a gifted and gracious guide, who helps us understand the whole fabric and see the rich details of Indic civilization in this age of universal science…  No matter where you were born, what languages you speak, what beliefs you profess, what disciplines you practice, India is your civilization too.  It is time you got to know her better.”

– William Grassie, Metanexus Institute

 

Ten Years After


     It came like a brutal bolt from the blue and changed the heartbeat of history. It was like a stray asteroid striking the two towers that stood like symbols of a nation, within sight of the Statue of Liberty. The structures were brimming with business like the nation’s market-places, facilitating finance, providing jobs for a multitude, harboring people from more than ninety nations, they say.

     Many things have happened since then, from major inconveniences in travel to costly wars in distant lands. Similar atrocities of the murder of innocent people have been carried out in other nations of the world as well. Year after year we rightly grieve for those who lost their lives and we feel for the bereaved families. But there is little that the civilized nations of the world can do to thwart the terrorists who are obviously armed by people and governments of hate and  ill-will.

     But one good seems to have  emerged from that catastrophe:  interfaith movements are stronger and  more numerous now. This has been possible because caring and compassion, mercy and magnanimity are the messages of all religions, and  the vast majority want peace and harmony. 

     In the past decade, natural disasters have been sweeping the world in mindless fury, while environmental threats are lurking in hundred niches. There is therefore an urgency to hold hands in a spirit of goodwill and confront the stark issues facing us all. Whether Christian or Jew, Hindu, Muslim or whatever our denominational allegiance, we have no choice but to build bridges of understanding, and explore how we can prevent the world from deteriorating into greater peril.

     We can only hope that religious, racial, and cultural diversity will not continue to be instruments of venom and viciousness. We can only  appeal to the religious and ideological extremists of the world  to transform their passions into acts of love and charity. We can only wish that eloquent leaders in every place of worship will inspire the faithful to act in accordance with the noblest visions of the faiths. Every awakened religion reminds  us that we are brothers and sisters, all children of the same Divine Principle symbolized in different ways, invoked by different names, and prayed to in different languages. Stressing our commonality as fellow earthlings may enable us to erase animosity and foster mutual regard.

     Perhaps if this is accomplished, the sacrifice of the thousands on that ominous day a decade ago may not have been in vain. If not, the current earthy inferno  can only worsen.

Shalom, Salám, Shánti, and Peace!

September 11, 2011

Chand Bardai (1149 – 1200 CE)’s Epic Poem


Ask any student of Indian history about Prithvi Raj, and you will be told that this was a great king who lived and ruled in Delhi and Ajmer in the twelfth century. He was a generous king and patron of arts and poetry. The legend of his taking away  princess Padmavati, daughter of an opposing king Padam Sen, is like a romance of a medieval knight. He loved her and she loved him too, so when was about be given away to someone else, the princess sent a message to Prithviraj through a parrot, asking him to save her from the impending marriage. The valiant prince responded.

How do we know all this? We owe it to an epic poem of the court poet Chand Bardai, entitled Prithviraj Raso which is said to run to some ten thousand stanzas, some say one hundred thousand, perhaps  in unwarranted exaggeration. The work is reckoned as one of the first grand poems in Hindi literature. It is also the source of much information on North India of those times. We seldom realize how much we owe to ancient authors for our knowledge, perfect or imperfect, of history.

Here are some lines from  Prithviraj Raso:

Watching the road in the direction of Delhi,

Happy she was when the parrot returned.

Hearing the news, glad were her eyes.

The maiden was elated with the tokens of love.

She tore off the dirty clothes from her body.

Purified and anointed and adorned with robes,

Called for priceless jewels from head to foot,

Arrayed with the tokens of the king of love.

Filling a holden tray with pearls,

Lighting a lamp she waved it around,

Boldly the maiden goes

As Rukmini went to Murari,

Worshiping Gauri, revering Ahankar.

Circumambulating and touching their feet.

Then on seeing Prithviraj she smiled bashfully,

Hiding her face through shyness.

Seizing her hand, putting her on horseback,

The Lord of Delhi took her away…

Prthviraj  was also a hero  who  fought the Muslim invader Shaháb-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori valiantly in two battles at Tarain. In the second one, in 1192, he was asked by the invader to convert to Islam, and when he refused, he was slain.

September 13, 2011

Religion’s Nature: Depends on Your Emphasis


In January 2010 Sam Harris and Karen Armstrong had a debate on Religion. Here are my comments on it:

As often happens when two intelligent people debate both are right from their respective understandings/convictions/definitions of the issue they are debating, each impervious to the other’s perspective.

To Sam Harris the word religion evokes witchcraft, cannibalism, superstition and such. It cannot be denied that these have been aspects of religion in the past, and still are so in many contexts.

To Armstrong, “religion is also about the quest for transcendence, the discipline of compassion, and the endless search for meaning; … to help us to live creatively, serenely, and kindly with the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human condition.”

She wisely rejects explicitly those aspects of religion which Harris emphasizes, and (I trust) the latter will be sympathetic to those features and goals of religion which Armstrong mentions.

Then why the difference and why the debate?

This, I contend, is because the ugly sides of religion have dominated humanity for much too long, and its finer and ennobling dimensions can be incorporated into human life and culture without the heavy doses of deadweight that still deface many religions.

Perhaps the New Atheists and the New Religionists should be spending more of their time and energy in salvaging whatever is good and noble in our religious traditions and reject all that is anachronistic, unconscionable, and muddled in religious frameworks

They should join hands to formulate a new pan-human religious framework which will be meaningful to the masses, which will foster caring and compassion, and which will make us aware of dimensions beyond consuming, purging, and propagating. But this will not be possible as long as those who are ardently affiliated to traditional religions refuse to acknowledge the negative and hurtful dimensions of their religions (or are unable to do so), and the awakened folks are incapable of seeing anything good in humanity’s religious heritage and sensitivity.

January 2010