Keynote address at World Hindu Economic Forum South Africa 2014
Updated: Jun 27, 2018
I had the opportunity to deliver a Keynote address at World Hindu Economic Forum South Africa 2014 on the theme of "Hindu Dharma & Development. The video footage can be seen below. Below the video, I have summarised by keynote address.
I started my talk mentioning about Hindu Dharma and establishing the synonymous link between India and Hinduism. I then quoted the works by great people and then mentioned to them about the way the world used to think about Hindus and India. These were very strong words from some of the most gifted people the world has ever seen. I then proceeded to recall some of the great deeds performed by our ancestors in the field of education, number system, science, medicine, aviation, architecture, yoga etc
While speaking about education, I spoke about the ancient Indian systems of education including vedic, Brahmanic & Buddhistic. I spoke how the ancient India educational system helped in all round development including Physical , Mental, Social and Emotional development
While talking about number systems, I spoke about how Aryabhatta was the first to proclaim that the earth is round, it rotates on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in space - 1000 years before Copernicus. Aryabhatta's most spectacular contribution was the concept of zero without which modern computer technology would have been non-existent. I mentioned how the value of pi was first calculated by Budhayana, and how he explained the concept of what is now known as the Pythagorean Theorem. I also mentioned that Bhaskaracharya was the first to discover gravity, 500 years before Sir Isaac Newton. In the "Surya Siddhanta" he makes a note on the force of gravity. I also made the audience aware that the concept of Algebra, Trigonometry & Calculus came from India.
While speaking about the contribution to India in science, I spoke about how Nagarjuna had discovered the alchemy of transmuting base metals into gold where the medieval alchemists of England failed, As the author of medical books like "Arogyamanjari" and "Yogasar“, Nagarjuna also made significant contributions to the field of curative medicine. Textual masterpieces like "Ras Ratnakar," "Rashrudaya" and "Rasendramangal" are his renowned contributions to the science of chemistry. Because of his profound scholarliness and versatile knowledge, he was appointed as Chancellor of the famous University of Nalanda . I mentioned about Acharya Kanad who was the founder of ATOMIC Theory and as the founder of "Vaisheshik Darshan"- one of six principal philosophies of India his statement ushered in the Atomic Theory for the first time ever in the world, nearly 2500 years before John Dalton. Acharya Kanad had also classified all the objects of creation into nine elements, namely: earth, water, light, wind, ether, time, space, mind and soul.
While speaking about the contribution of India to medicine, I spoke about how Sushruta, the father of surgery, conducted complicated procedures dealing with cataracts, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones, plastic surgery, caesarean section and brain surgery 2,600 years ago. Over 125 surgical instruments were in use then. I also mentioned how Acharya Sushrut details the first ever surgery procedures in "Sushrut Samhita," a unique encyclopaedia of surgery. When surgery was in its infancy in Europe, Sushrut was performing Rhinoplasty (restoration of a damaged nose) and other challenging operations. I briefly touched about the concept of Ayurveda, which is the oldest school of medicine codified by Charaka 2,500 years ago. Acharya Charak has been crowned as the Father of Medicine and the "Charak Samhita" ,is considered as an encyclopaedia of Ayurveda. In the "Charak Samhita" he has described the medicinal qualities and functions of 100,000 herbal plants.
While speaking about aviation, I mentioned how the flying vehicles were firstly designated Ratha (vehicle or carriage) in the Rig Veda and that in the Ramayana both the words "Vimana" and "Ratha" have been used. Reference to Flying vehicles as Vimana occur in the Mahabharata in about 41 places of which the air attack of Salva on Krisna's capital Dwaraka. The Vaimanika Sastra (or Vymaanika-Shaastra) a fourth century B.C. text written by Bharadwaj the Wise has eight chapters with diagrams, describing three types of aircraft, including apparatuses that could neither catch on fire nor break.
The idea behind recalling some of the contributions of Indians over the last few centuries and make the audience aware of the same was to provide a glimpse of Hindu Dharma and the role it played in contributing to the Development of mankind.
I put forth a thought that this ancient Indian wisdom is relevant even today and using this ancient teachings as a base, I then put forth certain views where these teachings Dharma can substantially contribute to the development of mankind over the years to come. This has been mentioned in the next few paragraphs.
Our Acharyas had always advocate the use of nature for maximum benefit. All the solutions to our problems are found in the nature and this is what the world has also come to believe.. We are returning to the nature, Natural medicines, natural fertilizers, natural fuels ( Bio Fuels) , Natural food, natural preservatives and natural water harvesting and purification systems.
The concept of Dharma which is at the core of Hinduism is explained in Sri Bhagwad Gita, which is one of the most sacred and influential Indian texts. Every individual has its own dharma and it is upto him/her to figure out the dharma or purpose in their life. Hinduism gives absolute freedom to individuals to make their choices. Some parts of the world is messed up because it has moved away from its traditional and dharmik values of giving utmost freedom to individuals. Individual freedoms are a necessity for societies to develop and considering that Hinduism has been mentioning about this from time immemorial, it fits in correctly with the present requirement.
Unregulated free market Capitalism is the underlying economic and political philosophy of Hinduism because Capitalism is the only economic and political system which acknowledges and guarantees freedom to individuals. Hinduism advocates this practice.
Yoga is the most well known Hindu philosophy that has been embraced by the people of all faiths in every nook and corner of the world. This provides us an opening to make the world aware of the other components of Hindu Dharma and how it has played in major role in shaping the development of mankind.
I concluded my talk by mentioning that initiatives like World Hindu Economic Forum should be encouraged by the leading lights of the Hindu community. Organisations such as Lotus chamber of Commerce have been playing a critical role in encouraging Hindu entrepreneurs in Africa and elsewhere to bring together successful entrepreneurs of Hindu faith and connect them to promising entrepreneurs so as to encourage them to pursue their ideas and provide them all the support that is needed to make their vision into reality. I put forth the idea of exploring the possibility of forming Hindu Enterprise society's at the school and university level where by potential entrepreneurs of Hindu faith should be encouraged to join these society's. These society's can then invite high profile Business, religious and political leaders of Hindu faith who can then interact with these potential entrepreneurs and give them the confidence to pursue their goals in line with Hindu Ethos and Hindu Dharma. This will help us to develop next generation organisations which follow Hindu ethos and Hindu Dharma. I believe that this kind of initiative can develop into a new avatar of Gurukul. I also put forth the view that it is important for Hindu organisations to understand and install the notion among all forces working for the Hindu resurgence that the Hindu identity transcends among all sectional, regional and linguistic identities. If this principle is adopted and implemented by everybody, Hindu unity and prosperity will be beyond bounds that can lead to economic and social prosperity. Organisations can face vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity so it is vital to inculcate the importance of power of inclusion where we explore some of the barriers and unconscious bias and understand the value and opinions of others. This can definitely help to face challenges and promote development and economical growth amongst the Hindu community, not just in Africa but all around the world.