Col J P Singh, Retd
Age and glasses of wine should never be counted as per an Italian proverb. Story of a Prince, now 86, the inheritor of the largest empire in North India, meteorically rising to be a formidable intellectual, and a multifaceted author of great repute, I consider, still young, can only be narrated by a layman like me by taking liberty with the Italian saying. On his auspicious birthday, I wish to briefly recount universal contributions of Dr. Karan Singh as a powerful intellectual, an eminent scholar and a prolific writer.
He was born on 9th March 1931. All these years he has been extensively travelling, getting exposed to people, places, books, environments and music which have been moulding his thinking making him a scholar of universal eminence. He calls himself a born traveller by saying that while in mother’s womb, he set sail to Europe with his parents and when 6 weeks, he sailed back to India and has been continuously travelling since then. He is what he is today not because of years but because of totality of rich experience of multifaceted exposure and divine gift making him universally recognised India’s outstanding thinker and respected leader, equally at ease with politics and administration, education and environment, Vedas, global consciousness, eastern philosophy and western culture. That makes him a true global citizen. He was born at Cannes, France as heir of princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. He would have ruled the state as a Monarch had the sub-continent’s chronology followed its path rightly. Even if he did not rule as monarch, he continues to rule over the hearts and minds of people all over the world through his scholarly reach. A deep insight into his glorious public life will reveal that he is part of Indian journey since independence which finds eloquent description in his autobiography, ‘The Heir Apparent’. Those who have read his autobiography would have admired reproduction of his inner expressions with an effort to reach out to his countrymen with references to incidents, accidents, upheavals, calamities and events which shaped his fortunes and the events whose fortunes he shaped with his indulgence leaving his permanent footprints on the sands of time. In his persona and scholarly pursuits, he combines many strands of Indian consciousness. As an Indian scholar, he is of the view that if one has to influence people of the future, he himself has to be influenced by the past. According to him, “history today means not the history of one country or people but of the world as a whole because we are the heir of everything that one can think of and because no country today can live in isolation because the world events act and react together”. A nation which has no history of own has nothing to offer to the world. Out of the past is built future. One has to look back to see what is behind us. Look forward, march forward and make our nation brighter and stronger, is his philosophy. ‘Our ancestors were great philosophers and teachers. We must recall them and recall their teachings’, he reiterates. His philosophy of life is, ‘as one lives in the present, he realizes that the roots of the present lie in the past and fruits lie in the future’. The more we study the past, more glorious will be our future and whosoever tries to bring the past to doors of everyone is the greatest benefactor of the society.
In his writings on Hinduism, he has described scriptures of Vedas and Upnashids plainly for ease of understanding. Hinduism, he describes as a geographical term based on Sanskrit name for great river ‘Sindhu’ meaning the flowing one, that lies across the Northern boundary of India. For those living East of the river Sindhu, which the Greeks called ‘Indus’ came to be known as the land of Hindus and the vast spectrums of faiths that flourished here got the collective name of Hinduism. His book ‘Hinduism’ is detailed description of the nomenclature. Upnashids are a treasure of knowledge. They are written in the form of Mantras. He has translated mantras for the global readership. Once we understand the meaning of such mantras, all illusions of life get aside, living and dying becomes easier. According to him, importance of our heritage and culture lies in its immense diversity and pluralism besides its antiquity. 5000 years of Hinduism in India having allowed growth of many other great religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism gives Hinduism a special place in the world heritage because of its characteristics of tolerance. In each one of these religions, India has produced many scholars and saints who have enriched the literature of the world by their writings and recitations, both in poetry and prose. I regard his books par excellence for the knowledge of the Truth in each sphere of life. He has re-emphasized the wisdom of Upnishads for a value based political and educational system for the world view. If one wants to understand truth about religions and culture, who else can illuminate us better. When revival of religious fervor is going on in the world, renaissance in Hinduism is but natural. Dr. Karan Singh is part and parcel of this renaissance. It would be a matter of regret if Hinduism loses its universal importance.
On his platinum jubilee anniversary, he released his book, ‘I Believe’, defining philosophy. He tells the readers how pertinent it is to seek to abridge a gap between one’s intellectual deeds and others needs. His philosophy of life means synthesis between outer activity and inner aspirations. His another book ‘A Treasure of Indian Wisdom’ is a masterpiece of his understanding of ancient Indian civilization. It is a treatise of author’s knowledge of Indic Civilization spanning over 5000 years, beginning from the advent of earliest Vedas and the continuing unbroken chain of spirituality, religious and literary pursuits. I call it a masterpiece because despite my meager knowledge of past and understanding of history/philosophy, I am convinced that he has written it not for today or tomorrow but to galvanise Hinduism possibly for a distant future and generations. This book should be readily available & widely read. He has described in this book how all revered Indian Saints and Scholars led and connected their followers to God. He has written more than 32 books. His last book, ‘Shiv Giri’ a Nobel (Mountain of Shiva) in Hindi has been released recently. Readers will find all of them intellectually stimulating. He has been extensively speaking on religions and raising interfaith awareness. He is the Chairman of ‘Temple of Understanding’ a global interfaith organization. His discourses on philosophy of Vedanta, Upnashids, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and his ‘Dharmarth Trust’ promote Hinduism as world revered religion. On 7th November 2015, he delivered an eloquent lecture on ‘Bhagvadgita Ka Samkalin Mahatav’ in Gen Zorawar Singh Auditorium, Jammu which was enlightening and heard spell bound. He is indeed a ‘Powerhouse of Intellect’. Wherever he goes, people ask him lots of questions on religions, Vedanta, Upnashids, philosophy and interfaith which he answers to their admiration.
On Yoga, he feels that of late it has acquired a superficial connotation as breathing and physical exercises which seek to further one’s physical and mental well being. He has been extensively speaking and writing about four spiritual paths of Yoga, (i) Jnana Yoga (yoga of wisdom) (ii) Bhakti Yoga ( yoga of love) (iii) Karma Yoga (yoga of works) (iv) Raja Yoga (yoga of psycho-spirituality).
Politics has been beautifully summed up in the 1st part of his book ‘India and the World’. He believes that politics will always be turbulent because that is the nature of politics as it is the nature of sun to be hot and of water to be wet and hence it will be futile to lament over the current state of politics. Approached in the right spirit, political activities can be powerful instrument of human transformation and thus can contribute substantially to the broader goals that lie before the human race, he believes.
He visited the valley in summer 2016 during stone pelting agitation and raised his concerns. Different and divergent aspirations of the youth, he feels, is because of inequalities and joblessness. He hopes that younger leaders in the coalition govt will address issue sincerely. His vision is an upbeat J&K, striving for development without getting bogged down in narrow controversies and lingering regional animosity.
Dr. Karan Singh’s intellect and beneficence has fallen upon the world like that of the gentle dew, unheard and scarcely marked, yet bringing into blossom the rarest and farthest in the world. History judges everyone just and right. I am sure history will judge him as a powerful intellectual, legendary scholar and a saviour of Hinduism, not by the large status that he inherited by birth but as contemporary of Vivekananda and Dr. Sarvopali Radhakrishnan.