आ नो भद्रा: क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः - Let noble thoughts come to us from every side
Indic tradition has always stressed that real wisdom lies not merely in knowing the answers but in understanding the questions that shape our existence. It was a quiet Friday afternoon in the sylvan environment of the Montfort Spirituality Centre, an oasis of peace in the hustle and bustle of India’s IT city Bengaluru when participants from across the country gathered for the Indica organised ‘Weekend With Wisdom’(7-9 July 2023) with the noted, gifted intellectual and writer Dr. Makarand Paranjape.
Ancient India always stressed a sharp distinction between two types of knowledge or vidya, para and apara. Knowledge of the absolute(para) has always been hailed as the only worthwhile knowledge. The world of the intellect and the senses(apara) has also been studied in depth but only as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal. Dr. Paranjape effortlessly bridged that divide helping all participants reflect and engage with the modern Indic paradigm with more subtlety and nuance.
The weekend retreat with Dr. Paranjape left all participants spellbound with his broad sweep of thought, impromptu insights, literary finesse, and refreshing contrarian viewpoints in an age of polarised, extreme discourse from all ends of the intellectual spectrum.
The two days were also peppered with insights on the craft of writing that cogently articulates the Indic stand. Every participant learnt that the allure of easy and reductive formulations, sans the rigorous scrutiny of Purva-Paksha, would stagnate the moulding of a more inclusive national consciousness.
Dr. Makarand Paranjape is a polymath who has authored and curated books on a wide range of subjects including nationalism, spirituality, poetry, science, literature, and more. Associated with a premier national university(JNU) for many years, he has also served as the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla. His rigorous research and scholastic experience , along with the spirit of encouraging free-wheeling discussions, meant that the entire group had the privilege of participating in lively and interactive debates and conversations.
The professor’s mellifluous language and articulate moderation had the aestheticism of ‘rasa’, dialogic Socratic nature of fostering critical thinking, and a punchy persuasive power. This article aims to encapsulate key takeaways, a short overview of the workshop, the venue and testimonials from the participants.
The ‘Weekend With Wisdom’ began quite informally at around 3.30 pm on Friday 7 July 2023, with a preliminary round of introductions with Dr. Paranjape. Unlike most workshops where most participants are encouraged to wrap up quickly, the professor requested everybody to dwell in detail on their personal transformative journeys for as long as they liked.
He also expressed gratitude to Mr. Srinivas Vadde and Indica for the meticulous organisation and diligent effort involved in organising all such retreats and events. Dr. Paranjape praised the contribution of Indica founder Mr. Hari Kiran Vadlamani in creating multiple avenues for Indic voices that are often stifled in contemporary discourse. He repeatedly stressed the need for the Indic ecosystem to elevate its game and not get lost in the quicksand of vile and non-coherent calumny. Unlike other writer’s retreats, he envisioned the weekend to be an ideation platform complemented by a critique of participant write-ups in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
The next morning(8 July), an enthused group took up Mrs Madhavi Kunte’s mystical and poetic story on Shardadesha(Kashmir) with Adi Shankaracharya as its chief protagonist. Dr. Paranjape encouraged a line-by-line analysis that delved into the beauty and flaws of the write-up systematically. Nearly all attendees actively engaged and participated, resulting in a creative, infectious vibe that permeated the session.
Mr. Jay Jina’s extensive review of Professor S.N. Balagangadhara’s book ‘What does it mean to be an Indian’ yielded remarkable insights about Balagangadhara and the gap between research infrastructure in India and the West. The sad fact that vast resources and superlative facilities exist abroad, while in India, decrepit systems and insufficient funding in India pose challenges. However, as ISRO and numerous other examples illustrate, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Contemporary trends,such as the impact of AI on writing through LLMs like ChatGPT, took the workshop and discussion in a more technological direction, conjuring up interesting scenarios, both utopian and dystopian depending on individual perspectives. While there were cursory references to oft-cited rules of writing like the ones by the English writer George Orwell for simplicity and clarity, Dr. Paranjape stressed more on the propagation of an Indic ecosystem that could permeate all echelons of society and academia. The workshop thus transcended literary analysis and ventured into broader domains of cultural influence and societal transformation.
Dr. Paranjape was accessible throughout and patiently listened to every participant’s aspirations and concerns over tea, snacks, lunch and dinner. According to him, for Indian Knowledge Systems to be a game-changer and force multiplier, the establishment needs to think long and hard, charting out viable, well-thought- out goals. His words resonated with everyone, inspiring a sense of purpose and determination to contribute towards building a stronger, more inclusive knowledge system that draws from the wisdom of our ancient traditions while embracing modern advancements.
The Final Day
The intellectual churn and ferment of the previous one and half days culminated in a satisfying denouement. Although the poetry track had to be skipped due to time constraints, the group eagerly delved into Patanjali Pandit’s review of the book ‘Who Were the Aryans’. It was a very interesting take on the disingenuous lengths that the bourgeoisie Marxist set who ostensibly advocate the views of the subaltern, the oppressed, and the proletariat take to promote misinformation. Indica resident scholar Mr. Shivakumar’s insightful remarks from time to time added depth and gravitas to the entire proceedings.
Given the constraints on Professor Paranjape’s time, most participants found the sessions interesting and incredibly valuable. Diverse perspectives and rich intellectual discourse over the weekend sparked ideas for potential fiction and non-fiction anthologies.
Mrs. Madhavi Kunte and Mrs. Rekha Dhar, helming the ‘fiction’ group, collaborated with the creative writing enthusiasts coming up with an anthology idea tentatively titled ‘Sacred Routes: Journeys Within and Without’. In another corner, non-fiction aficionados eagerly joined Mr. Shivakumar’s ongoing anthology on ‘Sristhi, Sthithi and Laya’. Every participant was fortunate to receive a wonderful gift, Smt. Vijayalakshmi Vijayakumar’s delightful book ‘Forever There’.
As the clock struck 3 pm on Sunday, 9 July 2023, the captivating sessions of the ‘Weekend with Wisdom’ drew to a close. Dr. Paranjape praised the intelligence and unwavering enthusiasm of the participants throughout the event and lauded Indica for its tireless efforts.
Everybody thanked the Professor for the profound insights and wisdom shared over the past two days. Like all good things, the time had come to bid farewell to this remarkable event, The ‘weekend with wisdom’ had been a journey of discovery and self-reflection, leaving each participant enriched and inspired. In the Professor’s eloquent words, the caravan moves on, perpetually embracing the relentless ebb and flow of life’s myriad trajectories.
Personally, I found it to be a wonderful and reflective learning experience. In today’s fast-paced world full of sweeping generalisations, there is seldom time to delve deeper. No individual exists in a societal vacuum and can claim to be truly detached.
Wokeism and cancel culture indeed warrant thoughtful critique, but addressing vitriolic negativity requires a blend of intellect, deft handling, and a rekindled ‘kshaatra’ spirit that has sadly been subsumed in recent times.
Indica, alongside a handful of other organisations, is rendering a great service to the nation by fostering meaningful discussions, debate and the promotion of the study and research of Dharmic traditions. Sessions on fiction and non-fiction analysis yielded several practical takeaways on the art of writing. The Indic ecosystem can gain immensely from more such brainstorming and challenging sessions with luminaries like Sanjeev Sanyal, J Sai Deepak and Anand Ranganathan, and other visionary minds.
POST-EVENT FEEDBACK FROM PARTICIPANTS
ASHVANI KUMAR SACHDEV
The Weekend with Wisdom exhilarating, exposing me to the encyclopaedic scholarship and intellect of Professor Makarand Paranjape.
The contribution of erudite Indic-minded participants made the event very, very useful.
Not possible to note the pearls of wisdom over the weekend but certain that useful bits will emerge from the subliminal depths of my brain. I thank Indica, Hari Ji, Professor Paranjape and all participants for knowledge enhancement.
An excellent resource person. It was a blessing to have met and learnt from him. My appreciation for IKS and current themes improved during the workshop. It was an enjoyable, informative and knowledge-gleaning experience. Wisdom spread!
The critical feedback that I received for my creative writing was rewarding. It was an enriching experience to have every sentence being dissected, word by word. These valuable inputs are going to help improve my writing across different genres. I am thoroughly indebted to Indic Academy for facilitating this retreat. I look forward to more such workshops, where I can learn and grow as a proficient and knowledgeable human being.
Great workshop! We need more of these. Dr Paranjpe took us on an intellectual journey that was thought- provoking, sometimes unsettling, sometimes soothing, raising questions and facilitating discussions that yielded heavy doses of wisdom and immense learning. The group was top- class and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with everyone.
A great practical, educative event led by an inspirational teacher and a motivated, highly supportive group of knowledgeable participants.
The workshop brought coherence to the muddle of thoughts I had related to the whats and hows of writing. Makarand ji’s valuable insights cleared my confusion. I was also able to get some genuinely good references of books, articles and related literature that will help me further in my journey as a reader and a writer.
Thanksgiving to Makarand Sir for his deliberations and enlightenment for understanding the wisdom of writing, and to Indica for providing the platform. My experience allows me to suggest that there can be more days for the same.
The workshop increased my knowledge as well as understanding of matters. It helped me know what I don’t know. It also helped me understand what I thought I knew, unlearn it as well. It filled me with new insights for how to approach any writing in the future.
Interesting insights on Fiction, Non-Fiction writing and Book Reviews.
An appreciation for quality.
Knowledge about good things from other cultures.
A good list of suggested readings.