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It is always a unique feeling when you enter a temple, irrespective of whether you are a theist or an atheist. The temple is a site of both divergence and convergence. We see multi-hued flowers, pure white jasmines, bright red roses, yellow marigolds and fresh green leaves adorning the idol. Tiny vessels containing sacred powders in vivid colors: red, yellow and grey. And the temple is a witness to different kinds of devotees. Some come empty handed with nothing but prayers to offer while some come with extravagant offerings. So, what is the factor that creates unity in all this diversity? Everyone comes for the deity. Some come with sorrow, a few with anger, others with desperation and some with wholehearted devotion. At the end, all these converge to a feeling of peace and gratitude in everyone who had a ‘darshan’. So, what is this common purpose that devotees throng to a temple for? What is this that people seek?
The answer is a simple three letter word called God, probably one of the most popular issues for debate, hypotheses and curiosity. Every person has a different way to connect to God. For me, God is not confined in any idol or form. I believe in the presence of a positive energy around me, that pervades everywhere. Like all other things that are beyond my comprehension, this belief engulfs me in a sense of vastness but along with it comes a sense of proximity. Proximity to something that is much more powerful than my puny human capabilities, something that makes me feel that I am not alone when I am in despair and something that makes me feel that there is a protective field around me. Praying is a way for me to connect to these positive feelings. My beliefs are partly inspired by the formulation of the concept of God, or Supreme Being in Mundaka Upanishad. This comes at the end of Atharva Veda and is presented as a conversation between Angirasa, the teacher and his student, Shaunaka. My attempt at presenting the meaning of the first few verses from the first khanda of the Upanishad is as follows.
Brahma, whom we all know is the Creator of the Universe according to Hindu mythology, imparted the sacred knowledge of the Supreme Being to Atharva, his first born son. Since it came from Brahma, it is also called Brahmavidya. This passed on from one generation to another. From Atharva, it came to Angira, from him to Satyavaha and finally to Angirasa. Shaunaka asks Angirasa about the knowledge of which through which everything else becomes known. Angirasa then speaks about the two types of education one must obtain. One of them is the Apara vidya which consists of the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), grammar, astrology etc. The other is the Para vidya which is spiritual in nature that will help us in understanding the immortal soul better.
He further goes on to explain this concept. He describes it as ‘not perceivable, beyond the grasp of one’s sense organs, without any roots, devoid of any features, lacking organs like hands and feet, undiminishing, omnipresent and omniscient’. He adds that as naturally as medicinal plants grow on the Earth and like hair grows on the body of a human, so has the Universe evolved out of this immortal presence.
यत्तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचक्षुःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम् ।
नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भूतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति धीराः ॥
This is the essence of the verses that have been an eye-opener to me. Looking from a logical and scientific perspective, this certainly appeals to my form of devotion. The ancients have described the Supreme Being as a form of energy. Isn’t this how we can poetically describe energy, as we know it from our textbooks? The same goes for the evolution of the universe that we know now. The fact that both worldly and spiritual knowledge was given importance is a fact to be appreciated. The scriptures, truly are extremely philosophical and poetic and are true gems to seekers of spiritual wealth.
“The more I study science, the more I believe in God“ – Albert Einstein
– Mythili K
Illusory truth effect- Are we falling prey to it?
Humans, as we all know, are one of the most intelligent creatures we currently know. But are we equally good at identifying the truth? Let us think…
Our learning process mostly begins right from our childhood. We learn from our experiences, environment, and things we are exposed to. So, most of us believe what we see/ believe to be true is true. An example from my life is: I never knew that evaporation was a cooling process- until I studied physics in high school, I believed it to be otherwise. There are many such facts that we think to be true but are not. We may be living in a world of our own beliefs and faiths. So, getting educated and acquiring knowledge are the key factors in discovering the truth.
There are scenarios in most of our lives where we are exposed to a lot of information. Most of the time, we don’t even bother to check the authenticity because we believe the information provider is authentic or there is too much information to verify. So, as we are repeatedly exposed to it, we tend to believe it. The best examples are WhatsApp forwards of fake news.
This illusory truth is a powerful tool in making people believe what you want them to believe. The most common people who have the knack for using it are our politicians, media, and marketers. Many of you might have observed politicians repeating their speeches in different meetings during election campaigns, social media groups spreading their views against an issue that becomes news eventually. These are the roots from where the illusory truth emerges. Another popular medium of illusory truth in our country is print and electronic media. One recent example is the media repeatedly hyping the COVID-related news has created panic among citizens. The effects seen were panic buying, exaggerated COVID fear among some people, and many more.
With the amount of information, we are bombarded with, it’s hard to verify all the information. Let us share information on if we know it to be authentic. Let’s try to be more aware, awry and away from the illusory truth effect.
Think whether the views of this article are the facts or are illusory truth effects.
– Parankusham Shiva Keshav
Project CHHAAV – Measure, Manage, Mitigate
(An initiative by IIM Bangalore & IIM Ahmedabad volunteers to fight Covid in rural India)
Covid-19 has affected human life in unprecedented ways regardless of class, caste, gender, etc. Rural India has half of the country’s virus caseload but unfortunately, with only less than 10% of the infrastructure required to drag them out of this engulfing pandemic. With the lack of infrastructure for treatment and diagnosis, most families prefer to stay at home (quarantined or not quarantined) even with severe symptoms of Covid. The healthcare treatment & diagnosis infrastructure in rural areas is broken, leading to innumerable struggles for the frontline healthcare workers (ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and ANMs). In India, ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and ANMs have spearheaded most of the government’s community health programs in rural areas. However, unfortunately, Frontline Healthcare workers are not adequately equipped with basic safety gear to execute their pandemic duties.
To help and assist such Frontline Healthcare workers, IIM Bangalore and IIM Ahmedabad volunteers have come forward with an initiative, ‘Project CHHAAV’. This project aims to ensure every frontline worker is equipped with a basic safety kit, including a Pulse oximeter, Reusable masks, Face shields, Digital thermometers and Sanitizer, and booklets with kit instructions in their local languages. The pilot program is set to kickstart in the first week of June in 3 districts, one in Madhya Pradesh and two in Gujarat. The project has been associated with NGOs such as Aga Khan rural support program, Transforming Rural India Foundation (TRIF), RCRC which has a presence across 12 states.
However, the project’s vision is not limited to these three districts but intends to distribute at least 1 Million kits in 45 rural districts across 9 states. In reaching the target value, it takes more than a small volunteer cohort, and hence the project has raised a fundraiser and is trying to partner with more NGOs, HNIs, and companies.
To know more about the project and to donate: https://www.impactguru.com/fundraiser/chhaav-by-iim
The team behind Project CHHAAV:
The team behind this initiative includes faculty, alumni, and students at IIM Bangalore and IIM Ahmedabad. The core team from IIM Bangalore includes Professors Gopal Naik, Venkatesh Panchapagesan, Suresh Bhagavatula, Sreelata Jonnalagedda, Dalhia Mani, Arnab Mukherji, Prateek Raj and Manaswini Bhalla, along with Ms. Sangitha Krishnamurthi from the IIMB community. The core team from IIM Ahmedabad includes Professors Rakesh Basant, Rajesh Chandwani, Pritha Dev, Ram Mohan Turaga, Ambrish Dongre, Amit Karna, Pranav Singh, Arun Sreekumar, and Ankur Sarin.
– Sravan Kumar Menthula