From the Jacket
PRAKRTI: The Integral Vision Explores the concept of the primal Elements (Sky, Air, Fire, Water, Earth, etc.) which has governed and determined the evolution of civilizations and cultures. This5-volume collection is the outcome of a series of five successive but inter-locked seminars culminating into cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary understanding.
The First Volume, Primal Elements: The Oral Tradition, focuses attention on the articulation of cohesive communities communicating with the Elements in continuous unceasing dialogue. To them the nature is not a matter of intellection; it is a question of life here and now. This is manifested in their primary myths and rituals which sacralize nature so that man can live as an integral part of the Universe.
The Second Volume, Vedic, Buddhist and Jain Traditions, centres on the texts, probing deep into the Vedic rituals, Upanisadic philosophies and Jyotisa sastra. There is a prodigious consideration of the concept of mahabhutas in Buddhism and Jainism. It also brings forth the many covergences and divergences of the view-points between and amongst these different streams of Indian thought.
The Third Volume, The Agamic Tradition and the Arts, examines systematically the manifestation of the Elements in the Indian arts and their Agamic background. From the different vantage points of the architect, sculptor, painter, musician and dancer, the field is reopened here to discern the structure of the arts at its primal level. Experiences of the transformation of the gross to the subtle and the theories of aesthetics and cultural ecology emerge from such a captivating view-point.
The Fourth Volume The Nature of Matter offers a much-needed critical appraisal of modern scientific concepts with reference to traditional thoughts. It contains invaluable discussion on quantum theory and elementary particles, evolution of living matter, nature and function of matter, scientific philosophy and Buddhist thought, Sankhya theory of matter, ancient and medieval biology, mysticism and modern science, traditional cosmology, matter and medicine, matter and consciousness, etc. the dialogue created between the method of science and the method of speculation is invigorating.
The Fifth Volume, Man in Nature, is a coming together of cultures and disciplines. Enchanting in their own way, the international community of scientists, philosophers, anthropologists, ecologists and artists, share in this volume the myths and cosmology of their respective societies and cultures. There emerges a most meaningful dialogue between those who live with the myths of primordial elements and those who have modified the tools of science to investigate the nature of matter.
This 5-volume set, first of its kind, produced by the most distinguished specialists in the field, should enjoy a wide readership amongst philosophers of many different persuasions, scientists, theorists of art and culture, particularly ecologists and anthropologists seeking new insights into the phenomena of Nature.
In 1986 when the first of the Multidisciplinary and Cross-cultural Seminars was held under the aegis of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, there was a trepidation. In my Introduction to the Volume on Concepts of Space : Ancient & Modern I have shared with the readers the sense of challenge as also of gratification. Then, it was not easy, nor has it been easy in the subsequent years to bring together people from different parts of the world of diverse disciplines and levels of society to speak through a multiplicity of languages to reflect and converse, and have a meaningful dialogue on the fundamental concerns of humanity in the past or present, in science or religion, philosophy and the arts, in civilizations as far apart as Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and Indian, permeating expressions through the written or the oral word, generating a language of myth and symbol which communicates across cultures.
The gathering, the dialogue and the discussion on a single concept of Space (Akasa) made it evident that the more fundamental and universal the concept, the greater the probability and possibility of diverse interpretations at multiple levels. The single concept of Space had taken us through the journey of the concepts of cavity, cave, aperture, fountainhead, body, air, sky, vacuity, cipher, point and much else. The scientist and the technologist explored the concept through their method of empirical investigation, the philosopher and the metaphysician, artists and the sociologist through perennial questioning and speculation. The two approaches and methods we learnt were complementary and not in conflict. The arts, architecture, sculpture, painting, music and dance enclose, embody and evoke space. Poetry creates vast edifices of space as spatial situations, and evoke the experience of outer and inner space.
The concern with Space (Akasa) could not be dissociated from the concern-the concept of Time (Kala). Two years later, a similar gathering with many familiar faces (who communicated with one another with greater ease) gathered to deliberate upon the many dimensions to Time (Kala). Once again, the discussions at that Seminar revolved round the micro and the macro levels of the single concept, from molecular time to the cosmic time, from the time of biologists to the time of astronomer, from the time of the seer and meditator to the time of the architect, sculptor, musician, dancer and the poet. Besides the familiar faces, there were others who had joined the family of the IGNCA. The enlarged family gave this Seminar a depth and richness, unique and unparalleled. The experiences His Holiness The Dalai Lama articulated in words lucid and resonant, were juxtaposed with the precision and meditation of a scientist – the late Professor D.S. Kothari. The depth of the experience of Time in religious traditions, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Hebrew, and the embodiment of inner and outer Time in poetic language was shared through rapt silence through the voice of the Poet Kathleen Raine.
Logically and naturally, from these two fundamental and universal concepts the next step in our quest for exploration of a single universal theme through diverse paths recalling the Rgvedic Verse, Truth is one; man knows it by different names, was to explore the concept of the primal elements (five or four) in different civilizations which have governed and determined the evolution of civilization and culture. Perhaps, the first conscious awareness of Man ws the fact that his life depended on water, Earth, air, fire and, above all, space. Understandably, in all civilizations, at the most sophisticated level as also at the simplest level, the recognition that the primal elements were primary and indispensable for Man, is universal. Myths of the origin of the universe, creation, cosmology and cosmogony, have been developed on the concept of the elements which are four or five. There is a vast body of primary sources and equally extensive and complex a history of critical discourse on the nature of primal elements and their indispensability, not only for Man but for all life on Earth.
The subject was too vast and too monumental to be taken up in a single Seminar. Organizationally, therefore, this time it was decided to hold five successive but interlocked Seminars, one leading to the others, so that they could all culminate in a final international cross-cultural multidisciplinary Seminar. Since cultures, disciplines, and levels of society are not completely autonomous and insulated, there was a planned and understandable overlapping between one Seminar or Workshop and another.
The five Seminars were divided more for facility than the autonomous nature of each area or field. The discussions, therefore, at one seminar were taken up and did interpenetrate into the next.
Logically, the first of these Seminars f