The India that was

By Janet Murphy

Great Minds of India by Salil Gewali is a compact book discussing the power that Indian ancient wisdom, thought and way of life had an impact on western minds, especially those who are of great historical significance, such as Voltaire, Albert Einstein, Ralph Emerson, Julius Robert Oppenheimer, Mark Twain, HG Wells et al.

Gewali’s motive for his research work stems years back, when his father encouraged him to read the ancient texts of the eastern wisdom, which prompted him to research western scholars like Fritof Capra, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau to name a few. The researcher has collected quotes from these great minds in the west that reveal their deep admiration for Indian philosophy and spiritualism, highlighting how central the study of Indian culture has been to western civilisation.

This book, a revised edition, has been extended because of the knowledge that the author has found in the time since its original publication in 1998 in a photocopy format. Most, if not all of these western intellectuals, found themselves shocked at just how far Indian wisdom dated back. German physicist Werner Heisenberg concluded that the ‘crazy’ ideas discussed by Indian philosophers centuries ago ‘suddenly made much more sense.’ Heisenberg is just one of the many intellectuals in Gewali’s book that appreciates and admires the wisdom in India.

On a personal level, my direct relationship with Indian wisdom and culture stemmed from when I began to undertake yoga and meditation to calm my nerves. Having always been an anxious person, I attempted yoga one day, hoping my mind would calm down and I could figure out breathing techniques. This one encounter has changed me forever, as I’ve learned not only how to keep myself physically active, but also how to unify my mind, emotions and body. However, despite a large group of western people participating in yoga and meditation, there is an intellectual gap between the action and history, which is why Gewali’s book is so monumental.

Towards the end of the book, after the quotes have been expressed, the author has included some of his essays and articles, where he discusses some of the Indian influences from his childhood, such as Swami Vivekananda and Gandhi. The sole goal of Gewali is to highlight how the study of India’s ancient wisdom is inextricably linked to the modern understanding of science and its universal significance has most definitely been achieved by this remarkable book.

(The full article first appeared in AltNewsMedia. Published with the consent of the author of the book)