Vedanta has retained its fundamental ideas as enshrined in the Upanisads over the centuries. But it is still extremely relevant in addressing the contemporary problems of globalised and liberalised societies. It is I this context that the Vedanta Congress has met at regular intervals to debate and discuss challenges faced by contemporary societies.
This volume presents a compilation of papers presented at the Twentieth International Congress of Vedanta, held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The Papers cover a variety of topics in English, Hindi and Sanskrit: philosophy of the origin of the universe, the behaviour of matter, social structures, political systems, role of language, yoga and meditation, among others. The insightful papers discuss the Advaita concept of testimonial perception, the concept of maya, the notion of time and space in the cosmology of the Samkhya system of philosophy and the Vedantic perspective on the spiritual quest and science. They deal with the nature and theory of origin of varna in the Bhagavad-Gita, Vedantic perception of organizational behaviour, importance of Vedanta in the corporate world, and value systems in governance with reference to Indian dharmic perspectives. These papers also highlight the essence of Vedanta as it applies to modern philosophy, science and business and the influence in exerts on culture, language and lives of people in India and the world.
The volume will prove valuable to scholars and students of Indology, religion and philosophy, particularly researchers of Vedanta and its relevance to modern times.
Dr Girish Nath Jha is Associate Professor at the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), He has an honorary appointment at the Center for Indic Studies as Mukesh and Priti Chatter Distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts,Dartmouth, USA. Dr Jha has studied computational linguistics from JNU and from University of IIlinois, Urbana Champaign. He ;has publications from Springer Verlag, Cambridge Scholar Publishing, Lambert Academic Publishing, among others, and is on the editorial board of a leading journal from Springer.
Dr Bal Ram Singh is the Director of Center for Indic Studies at UMass – Dartmouth. As a Professor of Biophysical Chemistry and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and the Director of Botulinum Research Center, he has been conducting research since 1990, on botulinum and tetanus neurotoxins, and lately also on yoga, mind, and consciousness. He has published three books and over 200 articles. He is the editor of the journal Light on Ayurveda and International Journal of Indian Culture.
R.P. Singh is Chairperson, Centre for Philosophy, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. His areas of specialization include Modern Western Philosophy, Postmodern Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, specially Upanisads, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. He has to his credit 16 books and 125 articles published in India and internationally.
Diwakar Mishra is a PhD student at the Special Centre for Sanskrit Computational Linguistics. He is working towards developing a Sanskrit Text to Speech (TTS) system for his PhD. His M.A. and M. Phil degrees are in Sanskrit with specialization in Sanskrit Computational Linguistics from the Sanskrit Centre in JNU.
The International Congress of Vedanta has been held twenty times over the last twenty-five years. The Congress, initiated by Professor Rama Rao Pappu at Miami University (Oxford, OH), moved to the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in 2009 for its eighteenth meeting, after Professor Pappu retired from the active faculty position at Miami University.
The twentieth International Congress of Vedanta was held at Jawaharlal Nehru University ONU), New Delhi, under the joint sponsorship of the Center for Indic Studies (UMass, Dartmouth), Centre for Philosophy GNU), and Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies GNU). The twentieth Congress was unique in many ways. In addition to being held outside the United States, the Congress solicited paper submission and their peer review ahead of their acceptance. Only about one-third of the submitted papers were accepted. The Congress was attended by the leading scholars internationally (USA, Canada, Germany, Russia, Israel, Australia, etc.), in addition to reputed scholars from different parts of India. A large number of students also actively participated in the Congress, including the poster session.
In view of the selection of papers presenting excellent articles, it was decided to publish the proceedings of the Congress for the first time in its history. The proceedings have turned out to be rather a large volume, with valuable contributions from many prominent scholars in the field.
This volume covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from philosophy of the origin of the universe, social structures, political systems, role of languages, process of teaching and learning, yoga and meditation, to the behaviour of matter.
Although the Vedanta Congress has always remained broadly open to various topics, there are occasional questions raised about the "purity" of Vedanta discussion. In academic circles, Vedanta generally refers to the Vedantic philosophy through its textual references. However, we at the Congress have viewed that Vedanta knowledge applies to every single and all of the issues of the whole brahmanda (universe), as long as those are observed, perceived, and imagined by the human faculties. Vedanta, literally meaning the pinnacle of knowledge, applies to all aspects of human action and experience.
Given the current conditions in the world, where prevalence of chaos and disorder in social, economic, political, religious, and educational structures has remained for decades, the system of democracy advanced as the panacea for all the problems in the society is showing its age, and has let the system of self-study, self-discipline, and self-governance replaced by uncontrolled desires, greed, and ego. The narrow interpretations of philosophy may have helped us make substantial progress in science and technology. It has, on the other hand, left out most of the other needs of human beings to only imagination and speculation. This situation has left a major gap in the society for people to practise great philosophies, like Vedanta, in their daily lives for harmonious living.
The International Vedanta Congress with its history of over twenty- five years is making significant advance in promoting modernization of ideas in Dharmic, Vedic, and Vedantic texts. Salient features of the 20th Vedanta Congress included efforts to link Sanskrit language with the philosophy and science, reform philosophy and practicality of social structure, develop holistic science and technology, devise sustainable economy and business, and empower the youth with knowledge.
It was heartening to note that there were a substantial number of presentations made by students and young scholars. Part of the reason was the venue of the Congress, the JNU, with two of its major centres, Sanskrit Studies and Philosophy, which have substantial number of students in advanced studies on topics related to Vedanta. Local Coordinators, Dr G.N. Jha and Dr R.P. Singh, deserve to be congratulated for their efforts to involve so many students in the organization of the Congress, and also in the presentations. It was for the first time that Vedanta Congress organized poster sessions, which attracted twenty-nine valued exhibits. These posters were judged and prizes were awarded to students for their outstanding performance. This was a very good way of empowering young scholars, and we hope that such encouragement shall continue in future as well.
There is an urgent need of examining the present education system in India and elsewhere in order to integrate many of the Vedic methodologies of teaching, learning, practising, and sharing knowledge that is sustainable, scientific, and progressive. India's Dharrnic traditions have not seen any progressive evolution for several centuries, and the current array of education systems and scholarship is too confused to re-launch examination and adoption of Vedic knowledge to solve the world's modern but detrimental social, political, scientific, religious, climatic, and environmental problems. Mixing of religion with the meaning of dharma has contributed much to the confusion by bringing politics into the arena, where it never had a place.
Academic institutions need to be alert and reassuring for a robust integration of ancient knowledge with the modern needs and advancement. The inaugural speech of Dr Sudhir Sopory, the Vice- Chancellor of JNU, at the Congress, and his plans to develop integrative multi-disciplinary programmes at JNU are welcome signs. The Vedanta Congress can play a major catalytic role in this process. In this regard it is also notable and encouraging that the Congress is attracting active support and sponsorship from different institutions. This phenomenon will definitely strengthen the Congress and accelerate its impact.
The origin of Indian civilization has its own controversies. However, the antiquity of its intellectual tradition has been largely accepted. Vedanta embodies the essentially pluralistic and malleable mainstream Indian thought which has continued uninterrupted from the Vedic times. Vedanta has its spiritual and religio-philosophical side as well as a much more abstract dimension feeding and inspiring modern sciences. Despite its diverse ramifications and immense potentialities, Vedanta has retained its fundamental ideas as enshrined in the Upanisads. While on the surface, modern India may seem far removed from these basic principles, deep down it is still largely Vedantic in thought and practice. While India and the world today are struggling to grapple with increasing demands of globalization, we wonder how Vedanta as enshrined in the Upanisads will answer the questions posed by contemporary societies. It is in this context that the Vedanta Congress was founded and has met twenty times ever since to debate and discuss these questions.
The twentieth Vedanta Congress organized at Jawaharlal Nehru University during 28-31 December 2011 continued its quest by bringing scholars from India and the West on a single platform to discuss and debate the fundamental Vedic principles and their applicability to modern societies. The event was structured on the lines of international science and technology conferences, with electronic registration, submission and evaluation of papers, etc. The call for papers (CFP) sought online submission of full papers in English, Hindi or Sanskrit at its home page /conf/20vedanta/index.jsp with advance registration as a prerequisite.
The broad areas (not limited to) were as follows:
• Various schools of Vedantic philosophy (metaphysics, knowledge and hermeneutics) and the lifeworld
• Science and Technology in Ancient Indian Texts (SA TIAIT)
• Interpretation of key texts of Indian intellectual tradition
• Digital libraries, electronic access and search for the texts of Vedantic tradition
• Yoga and Ayurveda
• Spirituality and science: Vedantic perspective
• Vedanta and interfaith dialogue
• Indian cosmology and psychology - Sarnkhya, Yoga and Vedanta
• Vedantic pedagogy
• History, Vedanta and Indian culture
• Vedanta and oarna system
• Corporate world and Vedanta
• Vedanta and public governance
• Vedanta and music
• Vedanta and consciousness studies
There were approximately two hundred papers submitted online out of which one hundred twenty papers were considered worthy of review by our reviewers. The system allowed online reviews and collected all reviews for each paper in a separate file on the server. The decision to select sixty-three papers (http:/ / sanskrit.jnu.ac.in/ conf / 20vedanta/ selected.htm) was based on purely professional reasons.
Besides these sixty-three papers, there were twelve keynote speeches by our invited speakers (/conf/20vedanta/invited_speakers.htm). There were twenty-nine poster presentations on various topics related to Vedanta. In all there were thirty-three sessions including parallel and keynote sessions. Each session was chaired and coordinated by experts and was observed by research students. A brief report on the proceedings follows.
Session 1: Inaugural Session
The inaugural session started at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of School of Social Sciences. Dr Girish Nath Jha, the session coordinator, invited the guests to light the lamp with the Vedic incantations setting the right ambience. After felicitating the guests with token gifts, Dr [ha requested Prof. R.P. Singh and Prof. Vaishna Narang to formally welcome the delegates, speakers, paper presenters and other participants. The Vedanta theme was introduced by Prof. Bal Ram Singh and Prof. S.S. Rama Rao Pappu. Prof. Bal Ram Singh introduced the theme of the Vedanta Congress while highlighting its broader goals. He showed how the Center of Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, has been constantly trying to change the image of India in the United States with various initiatives and activities. Prof. Pappu introduced to the audience the background of International Vedanta Congress and its brief journey from the first to the twentieth conference. The presidental address was delivered by Prof. Sudhir Kumar Sopory, honorable Vice-chancellor of JNU. In his address in chaste Hindi Prof. Sopory presented good comparison between Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Saiva Darsana.
Prof. R. Ramakrishna Rao gave the inaugural address and highlighted the importance of philosophy and its exploration from newer multi-disciplinary perspectives. This was followed by Prof. Radha Vallabh Tripathi and Prof. Rajeshwari Pandharipande presenting the inaugural remarks. Prof. Tripathi quoted a Sufi saint of Maharashtra who was a great philosopher of Advaita and said that no discussion about Vedanta in the twenty-first century can be complete without including Sufi and Parsi Advaita philosophers like Dara Shikoh. Prof. Rajeshwari Pandharipande showcased the connection between Sanskrit and other disciplines of knowledge and life. As an example, she cited the language technology developments in the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU. This was followed by a brief book-release function. It included five books - Science and Technology in Ancient Indian Texts by Bal Ram Singh, Girish Nath Jha, Umesh Kumar Singh, Diwakar Mishra (published by DK Printworld), Inflectional Morphology Analyzer for Sanskrit by Subhash Chandra and Girish Nath Jha (published by Cambridge Scholar Publishers), Paninian Morphophonemics by Diwakar Mishra and Girish Nath [ha (published by Lambert Academic Publishing), Primary Derivations in Sanskrit by Surjit Kumar Singh, Girish Nath [ha (published by Lambert Academic Publishing) and Indian Philosophy in English by Oxford.
Session2: Keynote Speech by Dr Subramanyam Swamy on "Philosophical Issues in Indian Identity and Current Version of History".
The session was chaired by Prof. K. Srinivas, Pondicherry University. Dr Swamy started his speech by explaining the interpretation of history in democratic India. He also mentioned the economic interpretation of history by Marx and referred to the nineteenth-century social reforms in the society of India by Maharshi Arvind, Vivekananda, etc. He gave some evidences to falsify the theory of racial division between Arya and Dravida.
Session 3: Vedantic Pedagogy
In this session of Vedantic Pedagogy, three papers were presented - "Learning Methodologies (Vedantic Pedagogy)" by Dr. R. Suresha, "Pedagogy of Vedanta: The Education of Body, Mind and Spirit" by Mohammad Shaheer Siddiqui, and "Putting the Super Accelerated Learning Theory (SALT) Into Classroom Practice" by Dr Maureen P. Hall. The first two papers showed different aspects of learning in the Vedic tradition and the third author presented the application aspects of the SALT theory of Pt Ramadheen Ramsamooj.
Session 4: Keynote Speech by Ashok Aklujkar on "How Ancient India Sliced Air Variously"
The session was chaired by Prof. Rajeshwari Pandharipande (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). In his address Prof. Aklujkar described the different meanings of "air" sliced in India. In the earlier texts of India; air is found in the form of wind and breath (prana, Vaya). Air has been treated as one of the four or five elements. It has, over the centuries, been cultivated for many purposes in various ways. It plays an important role in poetry and receives much attention in scientific and philosophical literature. Sanskrit developed figuratively the meaning of air.
Session 5: History, Vedanta and Indian Culture
In this session, there was one invited paper ("Sanskrit Civilization of Ancient Kashmir" by Sh. CL. Gadoo) with four other papers presented by Dr Sangeeta Kumari, "Shankar's Philosophy: An Ethical Perspective" by Reena Kannojiya, "Neo-vedanta and its Social Significance" by Prof. K. Srinivas and by Dr Autar Lal Meena.
Sh. Gadoo presented the rich tradition of Sanskrit in Kashmir, for instance the Rajatarangini of Kalhana besides the roots of some Sanskrit scholars like Kalidasa, and also as the source of Vaisnava Agamas and Saiva. The four speakers presented different views on the effect of Vedanta philosophy on society and its significance and relevance for the modern age society and culture.
Session 6A: Keynote Speech by Prof. S.S. Rama Rao Pappu on "Dharma: Virtues, Rules and Paradigmatic Individuals"
The session was chaired by Prof. R.P. Singh. Prof. Pappu (Miami University, Ohio, USA) informed how dharma has to be practised and how the ethics are reflected in the society. He also explained the paradigmatic individuals and their practices.
Session 6 B: Poster Session
In the evening, the poster session was organized parallel to another keynote talk. Of the twenty-nine posters displayed by students and teachers on various topics, three exhibits were selected for award as the best creative works and six others were selected for publication in the conference proceedings. The awardees were Umesh Kumar Singh, Pravesh Vyas and Chitresh Soni.
Session 7 A: Indian Cosmology and Psychology
The session, chaired by Prof. Pramod Pandey, had five papers - "Reassessing the Notion of Time and Space in Cosmology of Samkhya, Vedanta and Globalization" by Dr Alka Saharan, "Looking Beyond the Controversy of Creationism versus Evolutionism: Some Remarks on Indian Cosmogony" by Dr Ananda Mishra, "The Advaita Concept of Testimonial Perception: Some Reflections" by Prof. Raghunath Ghosh, by Dr. Sachchidanand Mishra and by Dr. Deepak Kalia.
The first two papers - related to cosmology and creation of world - critically compared the modern scientific views with the corresponding Indian philosophical views. The remaining three papers presented the realization of knowledge process, difference between sleep and dream.
Session 7B: Samvada in Vedanta Philosophy
The session, chaired by Dr Neeraj Sharma, had four papers. The first speaker, Arup Jyoti Sharma, spoke on the topic "An Excursion with Advaitavada Theory of Error". He critically discussed the Advaita theory of error which is known as aniruacaniya khyati. He demonstrated the notion of khyati through adhyasa and superimposition. The second speaker Haretee Lal Meena spoke on the topic. He elucidated the philosophical concerns of maya and the world in the philosophies of Aurobindo; Radhakrishnan, Vivekananda and Tagore. He also focused on the similarities and dissimilarities between their philosophical concerns with Vedanta. The third speaker was Harish Kumar, who read the paper in Sanskrit on behalf of Vishwa Bandhu Sharma. He discussed different meanings of the term vijnana and raised questions regarding the status of knowledge and its cause. The fourth speaker Sushila Kumari read a paper on topic. She explained the importance of siddhanta in Indian philosophical system from antiquity to the present times. Her main emphasis was on Caraka, Gautama and Udayana and different types of principles.
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