Western greats awestruck by Indian wisdom
Sandhya Regmi, Vietnam Sandhyaregmi2000@gmail.com
There would not be a matter of greater pride than to know that the greatest French Enlightenment author, critic, essayist, historian and one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of Modern time Francois Voltaire making proclamation – “Everything has come down to us from the bank of the Ganga.”; “2500 years ago Pythagoras had gone to the Ganga from the Samos Island of Greece to learn geometry.”; “The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West has ever been indebted to the East.”
These proud sentences in appreciation of ancient Indian civilization are from a world-acclaimed book titled ‘Great Minds on India’ by Shillong-based scholar and researcher Salil Gewali edited by an eminent NASA scientist Dr AV Murali of Houston. A freelance writer, journalist and editor since 1980, Salil Gewali, a member of International Organization of Journalists, has authored 19 books including text books for the schools of Meghalaya. ‘Great Minds on India’ is the author’s unique research work of nearly two and a half decades. Globally acknowledged as one of its kind ever published, the book attempts to showcase how the world-renowned intellectual luminaries have thought about the ancient Eastern civilization and the fathomless classical literature. The book provides how the wisdom of Indian subcontinent inspired ‘the greatest of the great’ scientists, thinkers, writers, poets such as Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg (co-founder of Quantum Physics), T. S. Eliot, Voltaire, Friedrich Hegel, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Johann Goethe (father of German literature), HG Wells, Herman Hesse, Mark Twain, Bernard Shaw, Erwin Schrodinger (father of Quantum Mechanics), Heinrich Zimmer (great German scholar and Professor of Sanskrit at Heidelberg University), Sir William Jones (the great British scholar and translator of Sanskrit drama Shakuntala), Frederich von Schlegel, Max Muller, and many more. The compilation has earned worldwide appreciation. The book originally in English, already been translated into nine languages of India.
What made Albert Einstein one of the wisest geniuses the world has ever seen is his ground-breaking ‘Theory of Relativity’. But how many of us are aware that this father of Modern Science had made a serious confession – “We owe a lot to the East, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.” Salil Gewali’s masterpiece holds out such proud revelations by world’s top intellectual giants and celebrated thinkers.
It was a great astonishment for me personally to know from this landmark book the solemn assertion of my favorite poet TS Eliot- “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.” What delighted me most was to know that Eliot was greatly inspired by our ancient Upanishads and Patanjali Sutra and he also learnt Sanskrit. A renowned scholar from USA Mr. Dick Teresi writes in his masterpiece ‘Lost Discoveries’ -“Twenty-four centuries before Isaac Newton, the Hindu Scripture asserted that gravitation held the universe together. The Sanskrit speaking Aryans subscribed to the idea of a spherical earth in an era when the Greeks believed in a flat one. The Indians of the fifth century A.D. calculated the age of the earth as 4.3 billion years; scientists in 19th century England were convinced it was 100 million years.”
The book also illustrates how the father of Atomic Bomb, Julius Robert Oppenheimer got immersed into the treasure trove of Indian wisdom who had gone to the extent of proclaiming- “What we shall find in Modern Physics is an exemplification, an encouragement and a refinement of old Eastern wisdom.”
Salil, a die-hard lover of ancient Indian literature, strongly felt then, these western scientists would not have appreciated and approved of those ancient wisdom and knowledge of INDIA, had there not been any scientific validity and significance. He gradually realized that scientists like Erwin Schrodinger, Neils Bohr, Julius Oppenheimer, David Bohm, Heisenberg, David Josephson, had got the ideas relative to Quantum Physics from Upanishads and Vedas. It occured to Mr. Gewali that the ancient treatises had greatly inspired those scientists to delve deeper into the atom, moreover into the inner core of the Quantum Mechanics. Here are the words of approval by Werner Heisenberg – ‘After the conversations about the ancient Eastern philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.’ All these facts consequently strengthened his conviction about the infallibility of the ancient literary wisdom. While the West has excelled at investigating and manipulating the Exterior world, the East has specialized in understanding and transforming the Interior world.
This fantastic book serves a beacon of great light even to the educated derelicts who have lost faith in the ancient Asian virtues. It offers ambrosia of divinity to cleanse our notorious ego. The readers get easily captivated and enchanted by the songs of Hinduism and the Hindu Scriptures sung in the book. Hinduism has been regarded as eternal religion embracing all others. The endearing eleventh President of India, eminent scientist and writer Dr. Abdul Kalam has regarded Vedas as the oldest classics and the most precious treasures of the East. Great philosopher, writer, poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore was highly inspired by the Upanishads and the works of the greatest Sanskrit poet Kalidas while writing his ‘Geetanjalee’. And Mahatma Gandhi, an epitome of peace, tolerance and non-violence whose works and lifestyles inspired many great scholars, statesmen, scientists and diplomats of the modern age, also admitted the Bhagawata Geeta as a boundless ocean of priceless gems. Even VS Naipaul, the renowned author of ‘A Wounded Civilization’, admits Hinduism as the noblest of all. And Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist, cosmologist and prolific author of the world famous book ‘Cosmos’, which promotes the search of extraterrestrial intelligence regards Hinduism as the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite number of deaths and rebirths.
Author Gewali has completed his share of work by presenting us with the monumental book. But it has left behind for the society the Herculean task of re-discovering the lost values and reorienting ourselves, without which the great pearl of profound wisdom cannot be woven into a necklace for mankind.
When the West could make breakthroughs from the knowledge derived from our ancient scriptures, then why are such virtues being underestimated in our own soil?
It is great to see the Westerners practicing yoga, and meditation, chanting Aum, and awakened to the higher importance of the Vedic knowledge and spiritualism. But sitting on the epicenter of those ancient heritages, why have we lost faith in our own heritage, and why do we hesitate to stand on its foundation? Why have we been ignoring, underestimating and devaluating the ancient Eastern philosophy and heritage in our own soil? Why do we hesitate to embrace an education system that enlightens our children with the eternal truth of our ancient scriptures? Instead of translating the rich virtues into the field of creation and productivity by ourselves, why do we have to wait for the West to so?
Unless we be awakened now and responded to it, a day might not be that far, when we have to send our children to the Western schools to “learn” the meaning and value of our lost civilization. And that’s surely not the way we wish to pay our highest tribute to the ancient seers.
(Sandhya Regmi is a freelance writer and a researcher from Vietnam)
Source: WHN Media Network