Read the Printed Word!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thus Spake Swami Vivekananda

Here’s a Quote on the internet media to claim that according to Swami Vivekananda , “HInduism preaches beef eating’  (Vol - 3 page 536)

..................You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef............

This is how the entire paragraph goes...

You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it. That is disgusting now. However they may differ from each other in India, in that they are all one — they never eat beef. The ancient sacrifices and the ancient gods, they are all gone; modern India belongs to the spiritual part of the Vedas..

Swami Vivekananda spoke on a whole range of subjects to varied class of  audience across the continents. He spoke to the common man, academic scholars, religious heads , students , devotees , friends and fellow monks. He spoke his mind, be it in jest or be it in pain. He wrote to his brother-monks and disciples to motivate, coax or chide.

And most of his speeches and epistles have been compiled as the complete works of Swami Vivekananda. I started with the first volume in my teens and read up most of his works over a few years; and I still read. I  am always fascinated by the fluidity in his ideas. There is always a firm foundation of conviction in is beliefs, confidence in his ability to think and act, and yet he never took a rigid stance on issues pertaining to day to day living; for example ,he never advocated a ‘right’ language to adapt, a ‘right’ kind of food, ‘right’ way to dress though he gave his opinions freely on any issue.

May be , because of his liberal ideas, and the sheer range of material available of his thoughts, it is  possible to  quote or mis-quote him in support of any theory. Of late both RSS and anti-RSS groups quote freely from Swami Vivekananda to prove their points. The easiest way to spread the word , today, is to condense the ideas into one picture or one sentence and shoot it into cyber space through whatsapp or facebook. Then you can trust the Whatsapp Wits and Facebook Philosophers to mindlessly forward the matter and the whole world consumes it , till the next big post comes up , may be ‘something about Virat and Anushka’.

The lines in the first paragraph is taken from an address to people in California, in 1890.(It was an American who would be astonished as an Indian would know that vedic Brahmins did eat beef.) The subject for the talk was Buddhism and the Swamiji was highlighting the aspects on how  Buddhism  had a reforming effect on  Hinduism.

In the same volume page 175, in an address to Indians at Madurai, the same subject is elaborated in a different way, as applicable to Indians at that time and space..

............. But the Smritis speak generally of local circumstances, of duties arising from different environments, and they change in the course of time. This you have always to remember that because a little social custom is going to be changed you are not going to lose your religion, not at all. Remember these customs have already been changed. There was a time in this very India when, without eating beef, no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin; you read in the Vedas how, when a Sannyasin, a king, or agreat man came into a house, the best bullock was killed; how in time it was found that as we were an agricultural race, killing the best bulls meant annihilation of the race. Therefore the practice was stopped, and a voice was raised against the killing of cows. Sometimes we find existing then what we most horrible customs. In course of time other laws had to be  made. These in turn will have to go, and other Smritis will come. This is one fact we have to learn that the Vedas being eternal will be one and the same throughout all ages, but the Smritis will have an end. As time rolls on, more and more of the Smritis will go, sages will come, and they will change and direct society into better channels, into duties and into paths which accord with the necessity of the age, and without which it is impossible that society can live. Thus we have to guide our course, avoiding these two dangers; and I hope that every one of us here will have breadth enough, and at the same time faith enough, to understand what that means, which I suppose is the inclusion of everything, and not the exclusion. I want the intensity of the fanatic plus the extensity of the materialist. Deep as the ocean, broad as the infinite skies, that is the sort of heart we want. Let us be as progressive as any nation that ever existed, and at the same time as faithful and conservative towards our traditions as Hindus alone know how to be.............

The import of this speech was to warn  fellow hindus aginst dogmatic beliefs and fanaticism based on some 'smritis' bound by time and space.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Genesis of an innovation

What sparks an innovation ? Does it always require a genius ?
The other day, I while scrolling through an endless stream of facebook jokes, and I came across this.
“ A lady (could have been a gentleman) complained at a computer shop, claiming that the new laptop computer she had bought would not carry out even the basic functions. On enquiry she explained that she was not able to copy a file from her old laptop to the new one. When asked how exactly she proceeded to carry out this task, she explained,
“I right clicked on the file icon on the old laptop, unplugged the mouse, carefully took it to the new laptop and plugged it and did a right click paste”
The salesman fainted.
The joke was followed by typical facebook responses ; ‘haha’, ‘LOL’, ‘ROFL’ etc. Amidst all that what caught my attention was the comment “That’s an interesting idea, a mouse with a memory”.
It got me thinking.

People who were very comfortable using the command line interface  designed the Graphical User Interface for the not so tech-savvy users to click their way through the digital world. Till today, many Unix/Linux users cannot understand how 'ten clicks' can be easier to do than a simple command on the terminal.  The  aim is to design a  'user-friendly' device.

Find out what an user is doing , and make your device work to such behaviour, and you have the ultimate user-friendly device.

Why can’t we have a mouse with a memory? After all we have an internet dongle with memory and storage space of its own? Make it a wireless mouse and it would be a ‘wow’ gadget. Point at a file, do a right –click copy , put it into your pocket and now you are ready to do a right-click paste – transfer to any other PC !
As for the cyber-security police , it would mean a terrible nightmare.
Coming back to the question what sparks an innovation, may be it does not need a spark of genius, even a spark of acute idiocy would do.