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Embrace tradition.

Modern society is all about re-invention. Off with the old and in with the new. Practically every New-Age Guru is waxing eloquent about rejecting wholesale all that was long established in favour of some new fangled technique. Diet 'influencers' are perpetually getting you to discover a new way of eating rice, or cooking vegetables, fashion 'influencers' are perennially fixated on new ways to wear a saree, heath 'experts' are always promoting a new exercise regimen, the list goes on and on.

While experimentation is a natural facet of human creativity, this obsessive need to get rid of tradition is a troubling sign. Here's what I feel about this.

Tradition is the amalgamation of knowledge passed on through generations. A process got added as tradition when our ancestors studied, observed the phenomena from near and afar, documented its benefits and drawbacks, made numerous alterations and eventually accepted it as useful and valuable to society.

Indian tradition or should I say knowledge systems exist in practically every sphere of society. Our ancient Rishis studied every known material and immaterial phenomena and documented these processes to aid future generations.

Lets take astronomy as an example. One of the earliest available texts on astronomy is the Surya Siddhanta, going back a minimum of 10,000 years. It is, by far, the oldest text on astronomy. To put things in perspective, Europeans were putting to death heretics who dare say that the earth revolves around the Sun and not vice versa, barely 400 years ago!

Lets me just pick out a few examples from this text to underline how gloriously advanced our knowledge systems were:

  1. The average length of the tropical year as 365.2421756 days, which is only 1.4 seconds shorter than the modern value of 365.2421904 days !

  2. Not content to limit measurements to Earth, the Surya Siddhanta also states the motion, and diameters of the planets! For instance the estimate for the diameter of Mercury is 3,008 miles, an error of less than 1% from the currently accepted diameter of 3,032 miles. It also estimates the diameter of Saturn as 73,882 miles, which again has an error of less than 1% from the currently accepted diameter of 74,580.

  3. Aside from inventing the decimal system, zero and standard notation (Ancient Indians were calculating trillions when the rest of the world struggled with 120) the Surya Siddhanta also contains the roots of Trigonometry.

The fourteen chapters of this text covers all the fundamental aspects of astronomy, including The Moon and Eclipses, The Mean Motions of the Planets, The Sun and Eclipses among others.

You can take any subject under the sun, be it diet and medicine (ayurveda), architecture (Vastushastra), polity (artha shastra), drama (natya shastra), tannery (charma shastra), sculpture (shilpa shastra), religion (too many to name, Vedas and Upanishads being the principal texts), you will always find detailed treatises on how to perform the said subject most effectively.

Even in the Mahabharata, when Yudhisthir finished the construction of Indraprastha, Narad Muni had a detailed and scientific discussion about water conservation and provision for the residents of that great city. The discussion goes into tremendous detail regarding the creation of water bodies, their number, their sizes relative to the population, etc. Today that particular discussion is more relevant, given the water bodies disappearing at break neck speed in cites and villages and the subsequent water scarcities that dog modern civilizations.

Ultimately, our ancients plumbed the absolute depths, or should I say scaled the absolute heights of every subject to achieve the twin goals of Moksha and Kalyan.

The twin goals of a Sanatani remain the same - Moksha and Kalyan.

Moksha being the adhyatmic goal and Kalyan being the laukik goal.

So whatever be our chosen profession, potter or musician, our ultimate spiritual aim remains Moskha and the societal aim remains Kalyan or well-being for all.

So the more we study, appreciate and follow traditional techniques and practices, we are wittingly or unwittingly contributing to the well-being of all in society.

This is worth pondering over!

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