Mr Sarvepalli RADHAKRISHAN

Days ago I was talking with a friend about this blog.

This guy is very sharp-minded and he is always looking north and west, ie always relating to Northern Europeans and to the USA while his attitude towards other regions of the world is not very open-minded in my view, to say the least.

I told him I of course liked the West too but my blog having like a will of its own it kind of brought me to the Far East and to an intense dialogue with the Indians and a few Chinese.

He said:

“How can you connect to your Roman roots while interacting all the time with the Indians & the Chinese, with folks so different from the Romans, the Italians and the Europeans? It is a contradictory behaviour.”

I tried to explain that if I am able to rediscover my heritage I am also able to bring a contribution to others who are diverse. I also said this process is two-ways, ie the same thing can happen at the other side of the dialogue.

He didn’t sound very convinced.

So I remembered a passage by a big Indian thinker. I wonder if this quote can help me to explain things a little further.

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher and statesman, argued in Living with a Purpose (Orient Paperbacks, New Delhi, 1976, p. 9-10):

“Great classics of literature spring from profound depths in human experience. They come to us who live centuries later in vastly different conditions as the voice of our own experience. They release echoes within ourselves of what we never suspected was there.
The deeper one goes into one’s own experience
, facing destiny, fighting fate, or enjoying love, the more does one’s experience have in common with the experiences of others in climes and ages.

**The most unique is the most universal.**

The dialogues of Buddha or of Plato, the dramas of Sophocles, the plays of Shakespeare are both national and universal.
The more profoundly they are rooted in historical traditions, the more uniquely do they know themselves and elicit powerful responses from others.
There is a timeless and spaceless quality about great classics.”

Kalidasa, Sanskrit great poet and dramatist, Kavikulaguru (Preceptor of All Poets)
Kalidasa, national & universal

Kalidasa is the great representative of India’s spirit, grace and genius. The Indian national consciousness is the base from which his works grow. Kalidasa has absorbed India’s cultural heritage, made it his own, enriched it, given it universal scope and significance. Its spiritual directions, its political forms and economic arrangements, all find utterance in fresh, vital, shining phrases.

We find in his works at their best, simple dignity of language, precision of phrase, classical taste, cultivated judgement, intense poetic sensibility and fusion of thought and feeling …. his works belong to the literature of the world. Humanity recognizes itself in them though they deal with Indian themes. In India Kalidasa is recognized as the greatest poet and dramatist in Sanskrit literature … Tradition associates Kalidasa with King Vikramaditya of Ujjayini who founded the Vikrama era of 57 B.C.”

[all font emphasis is from MoR, not from the original text]

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Note. I am happy I could retrieve this passage. Radhakrishan has been my Indian mentor in some way since my very first trip to India [occurred a long time ago to say the truth.]

A great author and an excellent bridge, it has been said, between Eastern and Western thought. In Wikipedia I read “he wrote books on Indian philosophy according to Western academic standards, and made Indian philosophy worthy of serious consideration in the West”. A western-centric statement possibly but much to the point.

What I mean is that Radhakrishan’s inspired words (he belonging to the great generation that built the Indian nation) can further explain and somewhat be linked to a few ideas expressed in this blog plus elucidate the apparent contradiction my friend told me about.

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Allow me some ‘idea linking’ now.

1) In my very first post I had written:

“I hope on comments from Western and non-Western people, since Rome and the Romans have a mediation nature that comes from the Mediterranean.” […]
“It is a great privilege to be born and be raised here [in Rome]… to the extent that something must have penetrated, something peculiar and worth to be transmitted, in order to be able, in our turn, to receive.” […]
“In this blog fragments of this special [Roman] identity are inserted in a bottle and sent through the WWW…” […]

2) In xntricpundits‘ valuable blog (now erased by WordPress I don’t know why) I was attracted by this quote by Jiddu Krishnamurthy:

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind … a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system…he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

I commented: “Violence is horrible but to me humanity is too abstract: all of us have roots, how can we forget them? I am writing here not because you are just mankind, but because you are Indian …”. Of course J. Krishnamurti’s passage was focusing on how to tackle violence engendered by diversity.

3) In another post I had underlined the importance of reading good books and of how classics of literature can be our best companions. In Poonam’s blog (a good place where, among the rest, she fights against wrongs in India, like the exploitation of untouchables) I had with horrible prolixity commented on a long list of books she had provided (How Many Books Have You Read? ) and I had made a comparison between Joyce and Dante. This guy (or woman?) told me: “It is unfair on your part to compare two authors of different eras …”.

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Poonam’s posts – the said one and others – have a lot of discussion. Ashish’s posts as well (meet such a great commentator of this blog at the discussion area below.)

I wish to both really all the best since they are a good example of how the young are constructing India’s future.

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Related posts:

Conosci te stesso, Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Nosce te ipsum. Pitagora, Apollo (e Hegel)

20 thoughts on “The Most Unique is the Most Universal

  1. When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind

    Something that makes the net a virtual world where nobody belongs to a specific caste, religion or race – but just one identity – that of a netizen. If somebody tries to place bounds, everyone is up in arms about that. It’s sort of a sandbox, something the real world should be. Rather than saying I’m an Indian first, I should say I am a human first. However different from everyone, I am still a human being and do not forget that others are humans too. Difference is required but it should be in character and way of thinking rather than placing someone in classes like Indian, Japanese or American. Power hungry people find it easy to manipulate us for their own good because of these seeds that have been planted by those who came before them. Be united, be human, yet stay unique. Not asking much am I? 🙂

    it is unfair on your part to compare two authors of different eras..

    Haha. One could say that you have to begin somewhere if you want to compare because however you refrain from it, you will always want to compare to find who is superior. On the other hand, what will you gain by it? 😀

    How can you connect to your deep Roman roots while interacting all the time with the Indians & the Chinese, with folks so different from the Romans, the Italians and the Europeans? It is a contradictory behaviour.

    Thing is, what I find is a Roman showing his Roman ways to an Indian who increasingly finds that things are done the same way but with a bit of different style. You are helping other human brethren connect with a different part of the world that rarely connects with others outside of it boundaries. I admit, I strive for European friends because I love Europe but there aren’t many who would like to connect. You are helping other humans discover that everyone else is human too, not just their race or nation alone. 🙂

    Oh and there’s Sex and the City as well! 😛

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  2. @Ashish

    You said:

    Rather than saying I’m an Indian first, I should say I am a human first… Difference is required but it should be in character and way of thinking rather than placing someone in classes…Be united, be human, yet stay unique. Not asking much am I? 🙂

    I totally agree, also on power manipulating us thru differences already seeded by time (kinda ‘divide et impera’: divide and rule).

    My blog though regards Roman cultural identity, Ancient Romans and what is left of that in contemporary Romans and Italians. So this ID is the angle I chose.
    The whole thing is complicated, I don’t know. I mean, IF I am able to rediscover my heritage, when talking to people from different backgrounds I am hence able to bring some contribution, some richness (my heritage) to them. In other words, my peculiar – historically localized – experience can perhaps be of some help to them, BECAUSE we being ALL humans, we all belonging to Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

    Same thing can happen at the other side of dialogue: people interact with me bringing their own peculiar (historically localized) experience, thus creating a fruitful feedback, a dialectic ping-pong, like you and me are doing since months, my dear young Indian friend living not too far (hope I am right) from the city of marvels, which, to me, is Bombay.

    This is why just ‘being mankind’ is not enough to me, it is abstract. And this is why I am happy outstanding Radhakrishan helped me clarify this to myself and to readers (I hope).

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  3. @Ashish

    What I find is a Roman showing his Roman ways to an Indian who increasingly finds that things are done the same way but with a bit of different style. You are helping other human brethren connect with a different part of the world that rarely connects with others outside of it boundaries. I admit, I strive for European friends because I love Europe but there aren’t many who would like to connect…

    You over-evaluate me but yes we both try to break barriers, you and me (I remind my readers that you lived in Portuguese India, so you have interest for Western culture, although you are Hindu.)

    Well, here in West and in Italy people connect very little to what is really different. The Italian people are only starting now to open up to Europe & the World but most of them are unaware of World changes.

    What I am doing is in fact not well understood, even by my friends. Some are still busy connecting Rome and Milan (can you imagine, tho me too, it’s fun), or connecting modern and ancient Italy, or southern and northern Europe, as I said, or America (which is West anyway). A very intelligent woman from Calabria (a half Greek region from southern Italy) keeps saying she is reverse racist: she rejects all Italians north of Rome. Incredible, considering that the fashion genius Versace from Calabria went to Milan and won, then went to New York and won (then went to Miami and lost, ie was killed, this having tho been an accident). People like Versace I admire a lot. My dear friend from Calabria instead I love her but admire less, I’ll admit.

    I mean, the whole world is getting connected. Same thing probably in India. I have seen Indians not replying to my comments. I can understand. I am an alien. One of my schoolmates spent 2 years in India recently (he’s in love with India and thinks he even has some Indian blood, which I think is bullshit). He worked there for an air-plane firm. Being the handsomest in our school – girls where kneeling before him when he majestically advanced – he came back to Italy disappointed saying Indians stick together and do not mix with foreigners. My theory is he was disappointed because Indian women did not kneel before him as they did here at my school ah ah ah ah. He’s a good boy though, intelligent, profound.

    Let us break these stupid barriers! People who do not understand the whole world is connected will miss big opportunities: jobs, money, fun (also sex and love, why not), I believe.

    PS
    Roman chatter-box will end up with a so to say theory: deep civilizations tend to close-up they being sort of *complete* in themselves. I saw it in France and I felt sorry since they seem to decline a bit. I saw it in Russia (plus they sort of hate Western Europeans and the US – they being Eastern Europeans – because we were the capitalist enemy who won. But they are not declining. Oh no, big surprises coming from big Russian bear I believe).

    Saw it not in Germany, a special case, such a *great* people, unlucky history, we discussed this.

    I see it in Italy, tho many Italians (from south and north) are open and incredibly *active*. Italians have sound genes and will not decline easily I think – problem being what happens in the whole of Europe).

    I see it in India, and, like here, only one part is open and really on-the-go, simple difference being the active portion out there is HUGE compared to ours. This is about to change the world.

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  4. I have few questions:

    1. When did you come to India? Where have you been in India?

    2. Have you read any of Kalidasa’s works?

    3. How did ya get inspired to read about RadhaKrishnan?

    And thank you for saying so good things about my blog. It is flattering. 🙂 And xcentricpundit’s blog has been suspended by wordpress. It is no longer available. 😦

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  5. My blog though regards Roman cultural identity, Ancient Romans and what is left of that in contemporary Romans and Italians. So this ID is the angle I chose.
    This is why to me just being mankind is not enough and is abstract

    Oh yes, I’m not saying to forget your [well basically this is to everyone] identity, but it should be I am a human first, then a Roman rather than I am a Roman. We need to be humans. Of course we need the quirkiness of each region, without them it would be a dull world. It’s because of weirdos or our weirdness that we find life interesting. If everyone followed rule, it would be dull. Be unique but be human. 🙂

    The whole thing is complicated, I don’t know. I mean, IF I am able to rediscover my heritage, when talking to people from different backgrounds I am hence able to bring some contribution, some richness (my heritage) to them. In other words, my peculiar – historically localized – experience can perhaps be of some help to them,

    Which is what you are doing. To me you are helping me to learn the ropes of life. For a student, theres a ton of information. 🙂

    my dear young Indian friend living not too far (hope I am right) from the city of marvels, which, to me, is Bombay.

    I was born there [or to be accurate just 4 stations of out the city], moved to Goa, moved back. It’s smelly and pollution reeked. Thats just me who likes the mountains and a village life. 😀

    I have seen Indians not replying to my comments. I can understand.

    You wouldn’t find me that way. I’d pounce on you. I’m the exact opposite of that, especially if the commentators from Europe or South America. 😀

    deep civilizations tend to close-up they being sort of *complete* in themselves.

    Noble gases? 😉

    only one part is open and really on-the-go, simple difference being the active portion there is *H-U-G-E* compared to ours.

    India is still mired with medieval age rituals and taboos. We will have to break the shackles and its good to see people like Poonam standing up for people’s rights. 🙂

    Have a great day Man of Roma! Eat loads of Pasta! 😀

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  6. @Poonam

    When did you come to India? Where have you been in India?

    My first time in India was at the end of the Seventies. Well, actually it was my honeymoon, in Bombay and from there to Goa, a couple of weeks. It was winter, climate excellent, we both adored Bombay, also ex Portuguese Goa of course (we hated the Western drug weirdos there tho). We returned to India maybe 1-2 years later. We stayed there one whole month, August, terribly hot though we didn’t mind being so young. I remember we buying monthly train tickets so we could travel by night (sleeping in a wonderful Raj-type-of-flavour train) and each morning coming out the train in a new station we saw new wonders. From that year we always went to the Far East for vacation. We in fact got also back to Bombay, then Rajastan and Jaipur, we saw Taj Mahal, New Delhi and up north Srinagar in Kashmir, where we slept in an elegantly furnished houseboat full of oriental carpets. And a little mouse who jumped on my wife by night… it was fun.

    2. Have you read any of Kalidasa’s works?

    No I haven’t. I quoted RadhaKrishnan’s passage on him because it further explained what I wanted to say and I trust him if he says he is an Indian classic.

    3. How did ya get inspired to read about RadhaKrishnan?

    First magic time in Bombay I found this old old man with glasses – he looked so wise – who sold books in a tiny bookshop. Asking him what I could read to understand India’s culture, he replied so slowly…and gave me 3-4 coloured little books from Orient Paperbacks.
    This way I met RadhaKrishnan.
    Back in Italy I bought “A cultural history of India”, Oxford Press. The section about Hinduism was written by RadhaKrishnan. I lost this book…:-( but I have notes from that time.

    thank you for saying so good things about my blog. It is flattering

    I am saying what I think. I always do.

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  7. @Ashish

    Of course we need the quirkiness of each region, without them it would be a dull world. It’s because of weirdos or our weirdness that we find life interesting.

    Ah ah ah, you are really something!

    Noble gases?

    Witty metaphor …Yes, I am convinced of that… only, noble gases must not get conceited and must react with other elements, even tho it can be contrary to their nature lol

    India is still mired with medieval age rituals and taboos. We will have to break the shackles and its good to see people like Poonam standing up for people’s rights.

    I agree totally. Only, as I have told you before, pls do KEEP the good things of your heritage. Dark ages or ancient stuff do have their pros too. I know u Indians will not just imitate what is plastic in the West. Every great civilization cannot but stick to their identity. Actually the world is desperate for help and more depth.

    The Anglo-Saxon civilization has given a HUGE contribution to humanity. I admire them and I also love them. But, the way I see it, we need to move on to more meaningful life patterns or ways.

    Indians have depth. You dear Ashish seem the other face of Poonam: you like Indian village life (like me, who fled to a small place), she is probably a city girl (in New Delhi, maybe, I lurked) fighting for modernizing social wrongs.

    I can marry you both ah ah ah ah ah

    PS
    Poonam: a classic example of Italian moronic kidding .. 😦

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  8. @Manofroma

    I have spent very little time in Bombay. But I am going to Bombay and Goa end of year (this month end). But I know Goa is going to be different than Portuguese era. There is a Shayam Bengal directed movie about a Portuguese family in Goa that I have watched. It is called Trikaal.

    When I return, I will write more about it. Any recommendations about what I should see there.

    Yes, Kalidasa’s work is a classic. I was just curious if you had read it. 🙂

    And yeah, I am city bred. Been in town though while in school. But never lived in village. I have been to village for visits. My visits are though memorable.

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  9. Poonam: Don’t go for the movies, as far as I know Goa is still the same – a sort of lazy coastal town isolated from the troubles of the rest of the country.

    I suggest you visit Vagatore and Anjuna beaches, Old Goa, Mapusa and Bondla. [Dudhsagar waterfall etc. are there too.] Try to take the bus tour of Goa.. its superb and finishes at night on the Miramar beach in Panjim on a boat! 😀

    It’s become commercialised more now, but thats only in the cities. 🙂

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  10. @Poonam and Ashish

    Glad to hear Goa is still the same more or less! I adored those beaches, among the best in the world, and of course the Portuguese people (though I was more attracted to the Hindus, more different from us…after all I went to India to see the real thing, the Indians, not half-European Goa people lol).

    I found my old notes from that trip. Dunno if they make any sense today.

    “People in Goa feel different from other Indians, they feel more European. When one is in fact strolling along the streets of Panaji (Nova Goa) one gets the impression of being in Portugal, Spain or maybe South America. Men have small moustaches, women have Portugal grace, hair with some flower plus arranged in a roll or chignon at the back of their head. Some people and women you cannot distinguish from Europeans or Brazilians. This middle-aged guy in a shop, a shoemaker, told me they have mixed feelings towards the Hindus and are scared to be invaded by the huge Hindu masses….”

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  11. I am staying at Candolim beach. So Anjuna and Vagatore should be near by. Mapusa is also nearby. But where is BOndla?

    I want to indulge in all sorts of activities there: paragliding, snorkelling…which are the places to do? Do all beaches have that? And what else can one do in Goa?

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  12. @Poonam

    where is Bondla?….
    Ask Ashish. I was there 30-35 years ago.

    I want to indulge in all sorts of activities there: paragliding, snorkelling…which are the places to do? Do all beaches have that? And what else can one do in Goa?

    Ask him lol (and meet him…why not, if u can?)

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  13. Bondla is half a days journey from Mapusa [I lived there]. It is a wildlife sanctuary. 🙂

    paragliding, snorkelling…which are the places to do?

    I don’t know about that. I was about 13 when I left Goa so no go there. You can search the net. However I do think Vagatore has that. 🙂

    And what else can one do in Goa?

    Drink, enjoy. 🙂 However if you are a history buff and would like to see some portuguese architecture, I think you’ll be pleased. The Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa and the surrounding city is superb. As for Mapusa, there isn’t much except the city and the bazaar [if it is the same.]. If you can, go and see Dattawadi, my old school is there. 😛

    and meet him…why not, if u can?

    Nope, she can’t. I haven’t been to Goa in like seven years! 😀

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  14. Interesting to know about your travels to India. I suggest that you make one trip to the southern region of India too – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka – these three states have rich tradition embedded in to them. It would be evident everywhere you go. But again, you cannot escape the heat!!

    I have not interacted much with Europeans/Americans. But in my point of view, there are differences between each group of people. Even within India, for example, North Indian’s are quite different from South Indians. And within the south, Malayali’s are different from the Tamil’s. Of course, there is more in common between all of them and that’s why the concept of India as a single country has been successful even though the country as such is very very diverse. I was quite surprised to see the success of the EU. The EU, probably is moving in the same direction as India. But I am not the right person to comment on it as I am located far away.

    I too have reservations on Krishnamurthy’s generic statement. I think there ought to be a certain pride in one’s culture, tradition etc in order to propel oneself forward. That pride might be an illusion but if the illusion helps people move forward, its good enough. But uncontrolled pride might lead to disastrous consequences. But I guess the process of under-development, development and super-development is always a cycle. And besides I consider our intelligence to be a double edged sword – it can develop us but it can destroy us too.

    Destination Infinity

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    1. I too have reservations on Krishnamurthy’s generic statement.

      A quote out of its context, I was possibly unfair, since I guess he was arguing against (ie trying to tackle) violence engendered by diversity.

      I hope I can reply more extensively later. Thanks for jumping here.

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