Pausha Shukla 14, Vik.Samvat 2074, Yugabda 5119: 1 January 2018

1. FESTIVALS:Vasant Panchami 2. 'Work Together for Larger Goal'
3. The Changing Dimensions of Hindus Globally 4. HSS UK Celebrates its Golden Jubilee with Parliamentarians
5. FISI Celebrates Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel Jayanti as Unity Day 6. Sad demise of Shri Jagdish chandra Sharda shastri
7. JAGDISHJI LEFT A DEBT ON ME WHICH I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CLEAR 8. Tribute to the Perfectionist Subbarao
9. rashtrapatiji addresses World Telugu Conference 10. Telugu is the third-most common language spoken in the US
11. Hinduism an all-embracing religion: Advani 12. From zero to Mars, bharatiya genius on display in London
13.  Indonesia: Why did the Princess of Java become a Hindu? 14. REMAINS OF WORLD’S OLDEST SLEEPING BUDDHA STATUE UNVEILED IN PAKISTAN
15.  Sewa's Annual Banquet Appeals for Involvement in Community Services 16. Desi diaspora largest in the world
17. 'Made-In-India' Surface-to-Air Missile QRSAM successfully test fired from Odisha coast 18. BHARAT TEST-FIRES SUPERSONIC INTERCEPTOR MISSILE
19. Lok Sabha passes Triple Talaq bill by voice vote 20. Muslim teen's essay wins Gita contest
21. How Mahabharata and Gandhi influenced Emmanuel Macron 22. Accord National Heritage Status to Ram Setu: VHP


The Beauty of Indic Thought


1. FESTIVALS:Vasant Panchami, falls on Magh Shudh 5, corresponding to 22 January this year, is the festival dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Hindus all over the world celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. Children are taught their first words on this day. Schools, colleges organise special worship of Saraswati.

People wear yellow clothes on this day. Rice and other items of food are given yellow colour using saffron in them. Mustard ripens in the fields around Vasant Panchami. Spiritually, the yellow colour is a sign of prosperity; it is the colour of love. -GoTop


2. 'Work Together for Larger Goal': "The objective of Bharat is to help the world move on the righteous path. If we fail to discharge this duty today effectively, the world would one day question us, the Hindus only, for it," said RSS Sarsanghachalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat, while addressing a Vishal Hindu Sammelan in Agartala on December 17. Dr Bhagwat further said: "Our ancestors, being part of the oldest civilisation and accepting it as their bounden duty, taught the world how to live a meaningful life. The entire world is aware of our rich history. That is why the world expects us today to come out with a way that shows the path to live a safer life. If Bharat does not fulfill this responsibility today who will be responsible for it?" Dr Bhagwat was on a five-day tour of Tripura since15 December to review the organisational work of the RSS in the North-Eastern region.

He urged the Hindus to get organised and trained at RSS "shakhas" (daily meetings), saying these were the only places where one could prepare for nation-building and self-development.-GoTop


3. The Changing Dimensions of Hindus Globally: RSS Saha Sarakaryavah Dattatreya Hosbale,in an interview style dialogue outlined an account of the reach that Hindus have achieved in all spheres and whilst integrating within the countries they have settled, how they have also maintained very strong cultural foundations. He was the keynote speaker at an evening hosted by Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar in London on December 13 with selected guests from the business community exploring the topic of 'Changing Dimensions of Hindus Globally'. Shri Dattatreya expressed that "the UK Hindu business community, which is very successful, should think seriously about creating an endowment to support initiatives that will really influence the institutions of this country". GP Hinduja, Dame Asha Khemke, Rajesh Ram Satija, Shubash Thakrar, Shashibhai Vekaria and Vijay Goel were among the attendees. When asked to explain what is an RSS Prachaarak, loosely described as a full time volunteer for the organisation, the answer was poignant, he said "The RSS Prachaarak is the property of the Hindu Samaj.” -GoTop


4. HSS UK Celebrates its Golden Jubilee with Parliamentarians:  In a cross-party celebration, HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) UK brought its Golden Jubilee celebrations to a close on 30th November 2017 amongst distinguished guests and Parliamentarians. Hosted by Lord Jitesh Gadhia, guests enjoyed a brief glimpse into the wide-ranging activities which HSS UK has inspired over the last 50 years. Whilst the event highlighted the achievements of swayamsevaks and sevikas (HSS UK volunteers) over the last half century in the UK, the forward-looking message of hope from Dhiraj Shah, HSS UK's President, was for the wider British and Hindu community "To better understand and more importantly, articulate in practice the HSS UK principal tenets of Sanskaar (dharmic cultural values), Sewa (selfless community work) and Sanghatan (unity amongst diversity)".

Lord Gadhia highlighted that HSS UK's Golden Jubilee is "a proud moment for all Hindus in the UK". HSS UK has been a pioneer over the last five decades with outstanding achievements through many significant projects including Hindu Half Marathon  that became the UK's third largest road race, and the Virat Hindu Sammelan in 1989, which is still to date the largest Hindu gathering outside of Bharat, to name a few.

The event was graced with the presence of key community leaders and Parliamentarians, Lord Dholakia, Rt. Hon Theresa Villiers, Barry Gardiner MP, Bob Blackman MP and Shailesh Vara MP, who all shared with the audience their positive experiences of HSS UK. -GoTop


5. FISI Celebrates Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel Jayanti as Unity Day: Friends of India Society International, USA, Inc. hosted a program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Nov. 5 to celebrate Sardar Patel Jayanti as Unity Day. Over a hundred people, mostly Bharatiya Americans, participated in the program. The speakers at the event included B.K. Agnihotri, Surindra Purohit, Sham Sachdev, Ashok Patel and Suresh Sevak. Sevak detailed the early life of Sardar Patel while Sachdev highlighted his contribution in the unification of Bharat. Patel reminded the audience about the political life of Sardar Patel along with his remarkable disciplined work habits. Purohit explained that Bharat's glory was accomplished by the dedicated contribution of Sardar Patel, including the merger of the princely states.

Agnihotri gave the concluding address and covered various aspects of Sardar Patel's life. -GoTop


6. Sad demise of Shri Jagdish chandra Sharda shastri: The senior most swayamsevak in Vishwa Vibhag Jagdishji Sharda breathed his last at Toronto about 1.45 pm local time on 25th December. He was 96.

Jagdish Chandra Sharda Shastri came to RSS shakha in Amritsar before 1942. He did his Sangh Shiksha Varg in 1942. He went to Kenya in 1946 to take over the job of a Sanskrit teacher there. He held first sangh shakha on deck of the ship itself and initiated first shakha outside Bharat in Kenya on Makar Sankranti day of 1947. Always cheerful and humble, Shastriji was instrumental in establishing sangh work in Kenya, UK and Mauritius before moving to Canada. He had attended most of the Vishwa Vibhag programs including many Vishwa Sangh Shivirs in Bharat.

Shraddhanjali by P.P. Sarsanghachalak: Shri Jagdish ji Sharda will be ever remembered by all who came in his contact for his cheerful smile and youthful persona.  I have experienced his warmth and sweet voice while meeting him in programs in Bharat and my visit to UK some years before.  He greeted with the same smile and sweet talk when we met at Vishwa Sangh Shibir, Pune in 2010 even though he was on a wheelchair.

Jagdish ji carried the spirit and thought of Sangh, imbibed in the Punjab, wherever he traveled across the world; be it Kenya, UK or Canada and tirelessly worked to spread that message. He is rightly credited as pioneer of shakha work outside Bharat and Pitamah in Vishwa Vibhag. Always active and ever happy to communicate with swayamsevaks of all age groups, he truly lived a 'Hindu Way of Life'.

Noble souls like him surely get a place the feet of SriParmeshwar and continue to inspire us all.

RSS sahsarkaryavah Dattatreya ji Hosabale has sent following message - "A great, veteran swayamsevak has gone into history. His memory and contributions will be cherished for long. No annals of Sangh history will be complete without a mention to his work." Others who expressed condolences were Dr Shanka ji Tatwawadi, former samyojak Vishwa Vibhag, Saumitra Gokhale - samyojak Vishwa Vibhag and many others. -GoTop


7. JAGDISHJI LEFT A DEBT ON ME WHICH I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CLEAR: I had read about Jagdishji's organizing the first RSS shakha on deck of the ship in 1946 while he was on way to Mombasa from Bombay. Jagdishji came to Vishwa Sangh Shivir in Pune in 2010 and then I had a chance to meet him. During my US visit in 2014, my son wanted to send me to see Niagra falls but said that the next time I should come with a Canada visa as the falls are more enchanting from Canada side. In 2016, I went to US equipped with a Canada visa.

On 10th August 2016 my son drove me, his wife and two sons to Niagra falls and after enjoying Niagra falls, we reached Surendra Sharda's house in Toronto on 12th August. I had already hired a camera in Toronto. On 13th August I shot an exhaustive interview with Jagdishji in which he narrated how he met Manek Lal Rughani on deck of the ship and how both of them held a Sangh shakha there for 10-12 days before reaching Kenya. He also narrated beginning of Sangh work in Kenya and UK. I also interviewed his middle son and two other gentlemen from Canada.

I came back to Bharat on eve of the demonetization day in November and showed the interview to Sangh adhikaris. I wanted to edit the interview with supporting visuals from Kenya and UK. I requested the adhikaris going to the HSS camp in Kenya to bring some visuals of Kenya. We earnestly needed such visulas and a visit to UK and Canada was also discussed with Adhikaris. 

The visuals from Kenya and UK were indispensible for editing of the interview. And to get appropriate visuals my visit to Kenya and UK was essential. I met a Vishwa Vibhag Adhikari in the first or second week of December 2017 and apprised him that it will be better to edit the interview as soon as possible as Jagdishji was very eager to see it with his own eyes. Jagdishji many times offered to meet the expenses on getting visuals and editing but we were not ready to accept any money from him.  Shastriji has embarked on his eternal journey before such visit could materialize and Shastri ji thus has left a debt on me of not finalizing the editing of his interview and giving him a chance to see it. I will never be able to clear this debt. - Shanti Prasad Agrawal from SAMVAD editorial team.-GoTop


8. Tribute to the Perfectionist Subbarao: Senior Sangh Pracharak from Tamil Nadu, Subbaraoji, passed away on December 20. A swayamsevak from Chennai he became a Sangh Pracharak more than six decades ago. He was a Maths teacher in Government school. He resigned to dedicate himself to a greater social cause. He had been a Pracharak in all Vibaghs of Tamil Nadu and worked among the teachers through Desiya Kalvi Kazhagam and the Samskar Bharati. Subbaraoji taught Sangh padhati to numerous karyakatas all across Tamil Nadu. He has been a perfectionist and a creative person. He was a staunch believer of Swadeshi philosophy and used to insist that we should use our respective mother tongues in our daily conversations. -GoTop


9. rashtrapatiji addresses World Telugu Conference: Speaking on the occasion, Rashtrapati Shri Ram Nath Kovind said on December 19 that today Telugu is a global language. It can be heard and read and cherished across continents. It is the language of enterprise and technology. He congratulated all the delegates and particularly those who have come from abroad. Shri Kovind also said, 'I am happy to learn that my colleague and the Vice-President of our country, M. Venkaiah Naidu - who is a proud Telugu - inaugurated this Conference. -GoTop


10. Telugu is the third-most common language spoken in the US: According to the 2012-16 American Community Survey by US Census Bureau, data released from the last five years estimates that 3,21,695 people over the age of five speak Telugu at home in the USA.

Tamil also made it to this list, with 2,38,699 people speaking Tamil at home.Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft and Shantanu Narayen, CEO Adobe are from Hyderabad, where Telugu is the native language. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and other notable NRIs like actor Aziz Ansari hail from Chennai where Tamil is the primary language. -GoTop


11. Hinduism an all-embracing religion: Advani: Former Up-Pradhan Mantri LK Advani said in Mysuru on December 2 that Hinduism was an all-embracing religion that recognised the right of every individual to follow his or her religion and worship their Gods in their own way. Advani, who inaugurated the 3D projection mapping of the 45ft-tall Karya Siddu Hanuman statue at the Ganapathi Sachidananda Ashrama, said, "An individual will be a Hindu as long as one reveres his or her version of divinity in a dedicated and sincere manner. This principle defines the all-inclusive and embracing quality of Hinduism. Besides tolerating other religions, it recognizes their intrinsic values. I can confidently state that no other religion on this planet replicates this, and that is why we should all be proud to be Hindus."

Advani said that that the Hanuman statue carried the spirit of Hindusim further. "The 3D mapping is a shining example of how the younger generation can use technology to define the image of God," said the senior BJP leader. -GoTop


12. From zero to Mars, bharatiya genius on display in London:  Proving to be a hit among NRIs, 'Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation', a free exhibition at London's Science Museum, shows how scientific thinking and technological innovations have been at the heart of Bharat's ancient traditions and how it remains at the forefront in the computer age. Among the artefacts on display is a folio from the ancient Bakhshali manuscript (3rd or 4th century BC), which contains the earliest example of zero ever found. It was discovered in modern-day Pakistan in 1881.

Various other innovations displayed are a model of the camera on board Mangalyaan, C V Raman's spectrometer, Surgical instruments inspired by animal claws and teeth based on the Sushrut Samhita and Jagadish Chandra Bose's 1924 letter to Albert Einstein, his compound lever crescograph and oscillating plate phytograph are also on show.

"People think of Bharat as all about religion, but science is as strong and rich but not separated from religion, as it is in the West. The pursuit of reason is at the heart of Bharatiya philosophy and religion, and has shaped Bharat's attitude towards science," Matt Kimberley, head of content, who curated the vast exhibition said. Looking at a panchanga (Hindu almanac), he added: "Even to produce a Bharatiya horoscope you need some sophisticated geometry." -GoTop


13.  Indonesia: Why did the Princess of Java become a Hindu?: Kanjeng Raden Ayu Mahindrani Kooswidyanthi Paramasi, the Princess of Java, Indonesia, went through a Sudhi Wadani Ritual on July 17, 2017, in the Pura Luhur Catur Kanda Pat Sari of Bali. This ritual can be described as an initiation into Hinduism.Sudhi Wadani ritual of the Princess was led by a Hindu priest, Ida Sari Galuh Wiku Sri Bhagawan Putra Natha Nawa Wangsa Pemayun, who hails from Bali. After the ritual, the Princess of Java, Kanjeng Mahendrani, officially became a Hindu on July 17, 2017.The Princess has vowed that she will build a pasraman (ashram) in Bali which will boast of a blend of Javanese, Bali, and Nusantara culture.

"I am very grateful… today is a good day…because my own heart… and my brother supported it (move of adopting Hinduism)."

Why was the initiation done at the Pura Luhur Catur Kanda Pat Sari?

Pura Luhur Catur Kanda Pat Sari was chosen because it is a Temple dedicated to the Dewata Nawa Sanga who is associated with the strong tradition of Sedulur Papat in Java which is still practiced by the Java and the Kejawen Hindus.

The Princess was born in Rome, Italy in 1961 and is one of the major personalities of Indonesia.

( -GoTop


14. REMAINS OF WORLD'S OLDEST SLEEPING BUDDHA STATUE UNVEILED IN PAKISTAN: In November, the remains of a 1,700-year-old reclining Buddha were unveiled in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The statue measures 48 feet long and is located near Bhamala Stupa, a ruined Buddhist stupa and National Heritage Site. Carbon dating places the statue in the 3rd century AD, reportedly making it the oldest sleeping Buddha remains discovered so far. The unveiling was attended by Pakistan's opposition leader, Imran Khan, who called the archaeological site "an asset for our country." -GoTop


15.  Sewa's Annual Banquet Appeals for Involvement in Community Services: Sewa's third annual banquet was held on Dec. 2 at Campbell, California. Sewa International is a not-for-profit service organization and finds its roots in the larger movement that started in Bharat in 1989.The event aimed at recognizing donors, volunteers, and community service leaders who are associated with Sewa. With over 200 people in attendance, Sewa raised about $40,000 in donations from this fundraising event. Raju Reddy, Bharatiya American founder and former CEO of Sierra Atlantic presented the keynote address. He spoke about the important role corporates need to play to give back to the communities. Kriti Dogra, coordinator of youth activities for Sewa, showcased the star projects of the San Francisco Bay Area-based organization in the categories of family services, youth leadership etc.  -GoTop


16. Desi diaspora largest in the world: The Bharatiya diaspora is the world's largest, with slightly more than 15.6 million people from Bharat living overseas. The Bharatiya diaspora constitutes 6% of the total number of international migrants which was estimated at 243 million in 2015. The global figure has risen by 10% over that recorded in 2010, a recently released United Nations report said. -GoTop


17. 'Made-In-India' Surface-to-Air Missile QRSAM successfully test fired from Odisha coast: 'Made-In-India' Surface-to-Air Missile QRSAM was successfully test fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation from a defense base off Odisha coast on December 22. The homegrown canister-based high-speed weapon system can deceive enemy radars making it difficult to be detected, is capable of destroying aerial targets, tanks, bunkers and short range missiles.The short-range weapon system was fired from a canister mounted on a rotatable truck-based launch platform at the Launching Complex-I (LC-I) of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea at about 2.30 pm.

"All subsystems incorporated in the missile have performed well. Though no target was set for the missile, it covered the entire range as coordinated. The mission was successful and it proved complete indigenization of surface-to-air systems," said a defense official. -GoTop


18. BHARAT TEST-FIRES SUPERSONIC INTERCEPTOR MISSILE: Bharat on December 28 successfully test-fired an indigenously developed advanced air defence (AAD) supersonic interceptor missile, capable of destroying an incoming ballistic missile at low altitude.The interceptor missile successfully hit an incoming ballistic missile head-on at an altitude of 35 km. The test was carried out from a test range in the country's eastern state of Odisha. "It was a direct hit and grand success. -GoTop


19. Lok Sabha passes Triple Talaq bill by voice vote: Crafting history for the gender justice, the Lok Sabha on December 28 passed the historic Triple Talaq Bill by voice vote.

The Bill christened as Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2017 makes instant triple talaq illegal and void and provides for a three-year jail term for the husbands. -GoTop


20. Muslim teen's essay wins Gita contest: A self-confessed Sanskrit lover, 16-year-old Nadeem Khan has been declared the winner of a state-level Sanskrit essay competition on Bhagvad Gita in the Rajasthan capital. At a 'Gita Fest' organised by the Akshaya Patra Foundation that concluded on December 18, two other Muslim students from Jaipur, Zaheen Naqvi of Class II and Zorabia Nagori of Class IV, also bagged top positions in a contest on the recitation of Gita verses.

A student of Class X at a government school, Khan, the son of a labourer, has had a keen interest in Sanskrit language ever since it was introduced in his curriculum in Class VI. -GoTop


21. How Mahabharata and Gandhi influenced Emmanuel Macron: In the preface to his memoir, 'Revolution' - which was published in Europe ahead of the 2017 Presidential election and will soon be released in Bharat - the 40-year-old French President Emmanuel Macron draws parallels between the 'Make in India' programme, and his own 'Produce in France and Save the Planet' policy. "Both our countries have understood that forthcoming growth is not pitted against, but resides in combating climate change," Macron writes.

Macron says that Bharat has held a fascination for him for long. ".. India, at once so distant and so near, fascinates me," he writes, adding that he discovered the country through the Mahabharata.

"I discovered India in the path of dharma, which makes us responsible - each one of us in our respective fields and in solidarity with everyone - for the order of the world, in the principle of nonviolence in the quest for dignity and independence." Other influences he cites are Mahatma Gandhi and Amartya Sen. -GoTop


22. Accord National Heritage Status to Ram Setu: VHP: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) welcomed the statement made by American scientists, archaeologists and the Discovery Channel regarding the Ram Setu being it a man-made structure. VHP joint general secretary Dr Surendra Kumar Jain said NASA satellite images had already pointed towards the Ram Setu being a man-made structure. The new scientific findings clearly indicate that not only Ram Setu but Bhagwan Sri Ram also is a part of the rich history of Bharat. The VHP demanded that Ram Setu should be declared a monument of national importance so that no one ever dares to question it again. -GoTop


23. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Ma Suresh Soni sahsarkaryavaha , RSS returned from tour to South East Asian countries, Shri Ravikumar Vishwa vibhag sahsamyojak will return from Srilanka, Dr Ram Vaidya sahsamyojak reaches Bharat for various programs, Shri Shyam Parande, Secretary Sewa International returned from Singapore and Bali, Shri Suhasrao Hiremath - Akhil Bharatiya karyakarini sadasya will return from Kenya. Visitors: Smt and Shri Deepak Mehrotra - Canada, Anil Sinha - Switzerland, Vipul Mishra - Algeria, Ashutosh Agrawal & Sanjeev Bhakhari - Australia. -GoTop


FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Do Not look back to see who falls-forward-onward! Thus and thus we shall go on, brethren. One falls, and another takes up the work. - Swami Vivekananda. -GoTop



The Beauty of Indic Thought

Ram Madhav

A profound quest for eternal bliss that is yet to take its rightful place in the world

Indic thought is the most liberal that the world has ever produced. This is because it is the most democratically evolved of all. It is a product of the deep contemplation of great sages and saints, their great dialogues and discourses. A bhadra icchha, a benign wish had originated from that, and it was about abhyudaya, progress and prosperity.

Bhadram icchhantah rishiyah

swar vidayah, tapo dikshaamupanshed agre.

Tato raashtram, bala, ojasya jaatam

tadasmai devaupasannmantu

That bhadra icchha led to the evolution of the core principles of Indic thought several millennia ago. It explored all dimensions of human existence, and concluded that life is a celebration. 'Aananda', eternal bliss, is the ultimate objective of this. Indic Thought teaches us to celebrate life.

A few years ago, I was at a conference in China. A Chinese scholar had made a startling comment that Indians can never compete with the Chinese. I asked him to explain. "You Indians are worshippers of poverty," he insisted, saying that Indians worship loin cloth-clad saintly men as heroes, whereas the Chinese civilisation had always worshipped prosperity.

It prompted me to wonder whether they have misunderstood our worldview. We are one people who always strived for 'aananda', eternal bliss.

Alexander bumps into Diogenes, a half-naked man lying on the banks of a river on his way. He asks the man, "Who are you?" The man says he is Diogenes. And then he asks Alexander, "Who are you?" A little surprised and a lot annoyed, Alexander replies, "I am Alexander the Great.'' Hearing it, Diogenes laughs out aloud. "I am seeing a man for the first time who calls himself 'the Great'," he says.

They engage in a discussion. At the end, impressed by Diogenes' philosophy, Alexander promises to become his disciple. "Do it today, or it will be too late," warns Diogenes. Alexander hesitates, "I have a mission to conquer the world. I shall come back after that," he promises. "You can never," says Diogenes. "Can I do something for you?" asks Alexander. "Yes! I am enjoying my beautiful sun bath. You are coming in the way. Please get off," shouts Diogenes.

Alexander was looking for his happiness in wars, conquest and subjugation. Diogenes, a saintly man, finds it in his freedom to lie down by the side of the river in his sun bath. Freedom, absolute and unmitigated, is the Indic way.

"God is dead; Man is free," exclaimed Nietzsche. But we said, "No. God is here, and hence man is free." God is all around. He is in me. I am God, the unbound. Hence I am free. We are a society that cherishes freedom.

Our Dharma, a view and vision of life that has evolved out of this thought, is the Dharma of happiness and celebration. 'Sarve api sukhinah santu' is the daily morning prayer of us all. At one level, it is purely a material prayer. It says, 'Let all be happy;let all be free from disease; let all enjoy goods in life; let all be free of sorrow'. It is about material happiness.

But the operational word in this prayer is 'sarvepi' or 'all'. We pray that everybody should be happy. In order for all to be happy, all have to also sacrifice. 'Tyaaga', sacrifice, is thus made a virtue for the greater aananda of society.

Indic Thought is very profound, and yet very humble. It doesn't ordain any final word and demand that followers believe it. We are not 'believers', we are 'seekers'. Indic Thought is man's journey, an unending exploration of the Absolute.

Since we are seekers, we have to be ever open to new ideas. We shouldn't assume that all the Indic wisdom can be available in a single gathering. Humility, the quality of accepting our inadequacy to realise the Ultimate Truth, and a constant yearning for it, is best captured in the Indic concept of 'Neti Neti'.

Scholars have interpreted it in many ways: 'Neither this nor that’ etcetera. But Chaturvedi Badrinath's interpretation, 'Not just this alone', best captures the Indic spirit. In our seeking, we must not forget that what we explore is not the entire truth. We must respect the other; continue to seek.

The seeker has no boundaries. He can find virtue anywhere in the world. "Hold your own values with one hand, close to your heart. Stretch your other hand into the universe, and collect as much wisdom as you can," exhorted Swami Vivekananda. Indic Thought doesn't discard any idea based on its origin, East or West. It accepts all noble thoughts.

Any effort to restrict it in a framework will be the 'Victorianisation' of Indic Thought. It will be the death of it.

Indic Thought wants a human to evolve in inner spaces, not just in outer morals. Semitic faiths and Victorians have emphasised 'character'. This English word has two equivalent Hindi words: 'sheel' and 'charitra'. The latter is a discipline imposed from outside. Social norms, ethics, societal morals-all these form your 'charitra'. But 'sheel' is the blossoming of the inner self; it is not bound by external restrictions; it is an innate virtue.

Go to an uneducated old woman of the poorest household in a remote village in our country. Listen to her morning prayer. She might not have enough food to eat for the day, or enough clothes to wear. But her prayer will be: 'Ganga maiyya ki jai ho; gau mata ki jai ho', 'Glory to the Ganges and the revered cow'. And it will end with 'Lok kalyaan ho', 'Let the whole world be happy.' It was not taught to her; it is her 'sheel' speaking.

Religions have imposed so-called values externally. They wanted society to have character. One should never become 'dus-charitra', a man of bad character. But one shouldn't remain 'charitravaan', a man of external character, alone. One should become 'sheelvaan', a man of innate virtue. That is Indic Thought.

It is this virtue that might sometimes seem to go against societal mores, which is the real freedom that Indic Thought accords the individual. Because many a time, these norms that we construct-for 'charitra'-might end up subjecting some sections of people to injustice. Victims of this are true minorities. A minority is not defined numerically; it refers to those whose voice has been taken away. Discrimination on the basis of sex, caste or race, even in the name of social character, is against Indic Thought.

Draupadi is the epitome of 'sheel'. She is in a way the first feminist of the world. A woman with five husbands, but fiercely independent, as she is not to obey any of them, and only listen to her dear colleague Krishna. Draupadi was partly responsible for the epic Mahabharata War. Yudhisthira, being Dharmaraj, was willing to settle for five villages. But Krishna turns to Draupadi, and it was she who insists that she wouldn't settle for anything less, quite rightfully, than the blood of Dusshasana. It was Draupadi's 'sheel', not Yudhisthira's 'charitra' of peace and no-war that finally led to the victory of Dharma. We didn't call Draupadi an obdurate woman; instead, we call her Maha Sadhvi, an epitome of virtue.

Indic Thought is about promoting and respecting that 'sheel', irrespective of whether one is born as a man or a woman, or even a transgender.

Such a profound and evolved way of thought has still not taken its rightful place in the world. It is still regarded as regressive, obscurantist, etcetera. But as Gandhiji rightly used to say, "If there is something bad in your society, don't blame Dharma; blame yourself, that you have failed to realise it fully." We have to realise it. More importantly, we have to articulate it properly.

That is the challenge. I have another one to proffer: think of ways to make Indic Thought fashionable, something that a 21st century young man would like to wear on his sleeve.

(Ram Madhav is National General Secretary of the BJP and Director of India Foundation Adapted from his inaugural address on December 17th, 2017, at the Indic Thought Festival held in Goa) -GoTop