Dialogue  January - March, 2009 , Volume 10  No. 3


Culture and Modernity: Letters from Professor Lokesh Chandra

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                17 December 2008


Dear Dr. Kumarji,                                                                                                                                                     The States founded on the ideology of Karl Marx have gone, but he is still alive. He created the aura of the economic man. Homo economicus; has substituted Homo sapiens in the market economy of the world, with disastrous consequences.

      Our century needs to ponder over the “Inner Democracy of Values” as a sine qua non complement of the “Outer Democracy of Consumerism”. We need Value Engineering to revamp, to resuscitate the future. To cite Jonathan Galassi:

       Our real poems are already in us

       And all we can do is dig.

     These real poems are our samskâra, in its riotous excellence, and clad in the beauty and nobility of a thousand stars.

      The voices, circumstances and life flow through the shimmerings of samskâra in many lands. Just to share with You these charming silhouettes in the prevailing perversion of chaos.



      Before me lies a currency note (photograph attached) of the Peoples Republic of China of one Yuan (=Rs.6.50). It was issued in 1999. The obverse pictures Chairman Mao and the reverse depicts the bhava-sâgara or Ocean of Existence and Stupas, as symbols of samsâra and nirvâµa. The stupas are to transcend the waters of oceanic consciousness. What a majestic flow of ideas that arose in India and continue to blossom in the Land of Confucius.


Yours sincerely

Lokesh Chandra



Dear Dr. Kumarji

     China is one of the three states where innate cultural values play a major national role. The other two are Israel and Islamic countries. China has floated the new idea of “mind sports” which include chess, bridge, checkers and similar Chinese games. Mind is an expression of culture.

     The first “World Mind Sports Games” were held in Beijing between 3-18 October 2008. More than 3,000 competitors from 143 countries and regions participated.

      The theme was “Civilization Varied, Wisdom Unbounded”. Wisdom unbounded is prajńâpâramitâ. Transcendental wisdom is crossing the waters of existence to the yonder shore.

     The opening ceremony began with an athlete pouring water into a conch Ľ'ka[k˝ representing wisdom. As is well known, every ritual begins with the blowing of a conch. The conch is also used for making sacred libations, as well as it is blown in battles in epic poetry. In the Mahâbhârata akha-likhita means “faultless, flawless”. An unpublished Sanskrit work entitled akha-snâna details the bathing of images of gods and goddesses with libations of water from conch-shells.

     China is striving for “prosperity without pollution” as well as “braving the modernity storm” with her Classical values.

    The clarion call of China for its millenial national values is being reiterated constantly and explicitly at international meets. This was vividly visible in the conch ablution (sankha-snâna) that heralded the auspicious beginning as well as was meant to sanctify all the events in the “battle of minds”, as the Chinese termed these new Olympics. The purity of water being poured into the spectacular and gigantic conch of prajńâpâramitâ was the grand opening that can be seen in the photograph taken on the occasion (3rd Oct. 2008): 



With regards yours

Lokesh Chandra    



                                                                                                                                              12 Feb. 2009

Dear Dr. Kumarji                                                                                                       

Alongwith is the photocopy of a Chinese painting of Kuan-yin or Padmapâµi Avalokitevara, presented by Prime Minster Chou-En-Lai to my father Prof. Raghu Vira in 1955. Padmapâµi represents a Buddhist avatâra of Brahmâ the Lord of this Earth. It is the symbiosis of the secular and the sacred. It is “the sagely within and the kingly without” in Chinese parlance. Brahmâµ Sahâ´pati signifies the State, while Brahmaµ (in the grammatical neuter) pertains to the Eternal Absolute of the Ka»ha-upaniśad 5.6. The Upaniśaśs represent the kśatriya tradition, which is termed brahma-yâna in the Lankâvatâra-sűtra the root-text of Zen Buddhism. In the Chândogya-upaniśad the kśatriya king Pravahana teaches the Brahmin Âruµi.  


     Premier Chou En-lai was admiring the flowering of culture in the mind of my father Prof. Raghu Vira as well as his dynamics of action, when he presented him this sensitive painting of Padmapâµi.

                As a Buddhist hymn says of Padmapâµi:

                The rays of Your knowledge open the

                                                Lotus of the Mind.

                The downpour of Your karuµâ ripens the

                                                leaves of Bodhi. 

Yours sincerely

Lokesh Chandra


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati