Monday, 28 January 2013

The god Shiva - in the Vedas?

"Namah Sivaya is the most holy name of God Siva, recorded at the very center of the Vedas" writes one of our sages in a text written possibly ages ago but received by me today.

Unfortunately, the facts contradict him.

There is no reference to Shiva in the Vedas at all.

However, it is believed by many that Shiva has a sort of "hidden presence" in the Vedas in the form of Rudra.

Shiva is a much later god, who was, even later, retrospectively identified with Rudra.

If you have an emotional preference for reading Shiva back into Rudra, it is worth keeping the following fact in mind: even Rudra is not "at the very centre of the Vedas".

The earliest mention of Rudra occurs in the Rig Veda, where only three hymns are devoted to him, out of the more than 1000 hymns contained there.

Altogether, there are merely about seventy-five references to Rudra, usually within a long list of gods who are addressed - and that's just 75 references in the more than 10,000 verses of the Rigveda.

If one wants to work out how important a god Rudra is in the Rigveda, you can work out a mathematical representation of that by dividing 10,000 by 75.

Friday, 11 January 2013

How can one become a sannyasin?

There are various answers in Indian traditions ("sannyas" is to renounce the world).

The problem with all answers that I know of is well illustrated by the statement below, that I have just seen: "Young, unmarried men of the Hindu religion may qualify for renunciation, called sannyasa diksha, which may be conferred by any legitimate sannyasin. But the most spiritually potent initiation comes from a satguru."

On first sight, that seems clear and understandable. But it raises key questions: what are the criteria for determining a "legitimate sannyasin"? Who is qualified to set the criteria? How do we know? What if the diksha (conferment) is done by an "illegitimate sannyasin"?

Or: Why is initiation "more potent" if it comes from a satguru? What does "more potent" mean?

Or: What are the criteria for determining who is a legitimate satguru? Who is qualified to set the criteria? How do we know?

If sannyas is something "conferred" by someone, is there a right way of conferring it which would be different from wrong ways of conferring it? Presumably the "conferment" has no "potency" if "conferred" in a wrong way? Who decides? Or how could we possibly know if it is being done right or wrong?

And what is all this about "young" and "unmarried"? I thought our traditions and scriptures were quite clear that we should all become sannyasis AFTER we have been grahasthya (householders, and therefore married) and in fact reached the age of "retirement"?

Thursday, 10 January 2013


I provide some basic information below.

All reactions, responses, criticisms and suggestions are welcome!

Several of the interviews have already taken place; others are proceeding apace...

Many thanks for any help that you can give me: a book may have only one author's name on it, but s/he needs the support of many people for that book to be any good!


Indian Philanthropy: A Portrait




Chapter 1: First Impresssions (Stories from my childhood – and those of others)

Chapter 2: Great Heights (Does one’s view of the world change from the perspective of success?)

Chapter 3 Subtle Realities (The varying motivations, personally and as families, for philanthropy)

Chapter 4: Apples and Pears (What did we give to, traditionally, and has that changed?)

Chapter 5: Means and Ends (What channels did we give through, and have those changed?)

Chapter 6: I and We (Individuals, Families, Firms, Institutions, Adventure)

Chapter 7: When One is Young (Is philanthropy changing with the generations?)

Chapter 8: Towering Ambitions (Indian philanthropy in social transformation, in government policy, and in the globalising world – and the limitations on those ambitions)

Chapter 9: Looking Forward (Some conclusions regarding philanthropy, not only in India, examining the relationship of philanthropy to culture, to law, to policy, to free markets, and to the possibility of creating minimum human conditions of life, equity and justice for everyone)




Examples of Individuals, Families and Organisations that have been or will be approached for the content of the book:


Alliance Magazine

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen


Lucy Bernholz

The Birla Family

Matthew Bishop

Richard Branson

Steve & Jean Case/ The Case Foundation

Center on Philanthropy

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy

Charities Aid Foundation India

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Clinton Foundation

CSR Wire


The Doshi Family


The Foundation Center DC

Foundation Centre New York

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Global Philanthropy Forum

Global Philanthropy Group

The Godrej Family

GuideStar USA

IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland

Indian Philanthropy Forum

Indiana University


Institute for Philanthropy

The Jain Family

The Koticha Family

The Mittal Family

The Monitor Group

Narayana and Sudha Murthy

The Nadar Family

National Center for Family Philanthropy

The Nilekani Family

One Percent Foundation


Philanthropy Action

Philanthropy Australis

Philanthropy Journal



The Premji Family


Nadathur S. Raghavan

Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy

Schwab Foundation

Skoll Foundation

The Social Stock Exchange

The Tata family

The Templeton Foundations


Twitter Good

The United Nations Foundation

World Economic Foundation

ALSO: Family Offices, Wealth Management Offices of the largest Financial Institutions, Authors, Journalists, Researchers/ Consultants/ Publishers, such as Bain & Company.

Other suggestions welcome… ENDS