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Season 5 - Episode 4

Crisis of Dharma

10 min - Special


Reflecting on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Ravi talks about some of the crisis of dharma in his own life experience.
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Dec 22, 2019
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Like Arjuna, have you in your life experienced a crisis of Dharma or conscious? Yes. Well, maybe you can easily imagine it, and maybe you actually even know this. Especially when I graduated from high school, it was very few years after India became independent. And there was a very strong emphasis to move towards science and technology to help the development of India, industrialization and this and that.

So it was just an assumption that anybody who is a smart kid, which basically meant who got good marks, really, that they would study, go into engineering at that time. These days it has slightly shifted more towards computer sciences or business, but I'm talking about 1954. Even though nobody in my family especially pressured me to do this, it was just the assumption. In fact, our prime minister at that time, Johar Lal Nehru, in fact, I remember one of his remarks. These institutes of technology are the temples of New India.

So you see very much emphasis on this. So I ended up going into engineering, believe it or nobody believes it, that I have a master of technology in oil exploration. That's my background, spending five years doing B.I.C. and M.Tech. But gradually getting a little bit dissatisfied with all this because it did not really correspond to my inner search of any kind. And then a professor recommending that maybe physics is closer to at least there are certain laws in it.

In engineering, we basically use classical physics to find oil. There is no particular laws in it. At least that was my understanding. But meanwhile, as I said earlier also, there was a running my life. I got a Commonwealth scholarship. And also I was given scholarship at MIT as well as at Caltech, California Institute of Technology.

Actually the only time in my life when I have literally spent two nights without sleep, how do you decide between these three possibilities? And anybody I asked, either any of the professors or any of the students, they were just mad as hell at me. I mean, they think this is a problem for you. One of them actually even said, oh, what a nice champagne problem. How do I decide between these three? Nobody was seriously interested in my question.

Finally, I decided to come take the Commonwealth scholarship because one very well-known professor, more or less related in the field I was interested in, was at the University of Toronto. So I ended up coming to Toronto. So in a way, the changes in one's life are often governed by many other forces. But for me, the crisis really began. I ended up doing an MSc and PhD in physics. But something in me was just not feeling that I knew anything about myself, truly. So for me, really the crisis actually began from there. So I began thinking philosophy will help.

Meanwhile, the person I ended up marrying, she was of Canadian origin, but had been a volunteer in India, had been assigned to a Krishnamurti school in India. She had never heard of Krishnamurti or had never heard of Krishnamurti. But when she came back to Canada, I went to Canada in 1961. She went to India in 1961. She returned in 1963 to do actually a master's in social work so that she will then go back to India and work there as a social worker. So I was just finishing my MSc and doing PhD. So that's where we met at the University of Toronto.

And she asked me if I had known Krishnamurti. She had met him because she was just assigned to that school there. And first time, she met him going for a walk with him. You think I'm running my life? And so at that time, now a book of Krishnamurti was published. We found only one little talk that he had given, a mimeograph version of it in the local Theosophical Society in Toronto.

But I never had met him. I did not know very much about him. But then when we got married and came back to India. And it's rather interesting because the person, the rector of this place where she was teaching, took a little pity on her because she was 21, 22 years old and eating in the residence. So he would occasionally invite her like his daughter for dinner. So now I was more or less like the son-in-law. And in India, you probably know, son-in-law is very important.

You can give us your camera. Nobody gives a damn about son-in-law. But in India, it's very important. So I was even asked what I like to meet Krishnamurti. So when I met him, I actually even said to him that I have finished a PhD in physics and people think I'm an educated man. But I don't really feel I know anything real. Certainly not about myself. So for me, that was really the crisis. Then gradually I ended up doing an MA in philosophy while I was teaching physics back in Canada because I couldn't get a job in India, believe it or not.

This is I'm freshly married, freshly PhDed and I can't get a good job in India. So I come back to Canada. And there I did an MA in philosophy while teaching physics. And then I wanted to move towards philosophy. This is where it was a real crisis because I had published many papers in physics. I had a PhD in physics. I had a job in physics. I had nothing in philosophy. So do I restart from zero? So you see, you have some capital in one field, but nothing in the other field.

That was a real crisis. But finally I decided to take all the risks. But again, in my case, the devas always helped. The chairman of the Department of Physics said, rather than resigning, why don't you just go on a leave of absence without pay? If you come back, we'll be very happy. If you decide not to come back, then we'll obviously hire somebody else. And then at Princeton, where I was postdoctoral fellow in philosophy, they offered me a job in philosophy department. Then I had a whole crisis because I actually by that time had met Mrs. Welch. I wanted to remain.

Princeton is only about one hour drive from New York. So it's almost I could go there. But my wife was born in Canada and anybody born in Canada is very doubtful about USA. I can assure you, you can talk to anybody. I was an immigrant. So for me, it's not quite the same feeling. But people born in Canada, they regard USA to be a big brother with a stick. And she didn't want to stay there, even though she had a green card and everything else. So it's not that there was any difficulty.

But then the dean at my university in Halifax heard that I may be thinking of staying there. He called me. He said, if you come back, we'll give you tenure, we'll give you promotion and you can be jointly in physics and philosophy. Now, you see, this is how I ended up. So crisis was resolved by some forces. I should not be completely silly. We have a part to play that is true. I was willing to take the risk. But real help is really a matter of grace. It comes from the other side.

That doesn't mean that we don't have any part to play. That would be silly to say. We play our part, but it is quite clear to me. I'm not running the universe, even running my own life. It would be silly. It's obvious. I didn't create myself. So am I running this breathing apparatus? So I have to actually remember this. I try to tell all my friends about this. They think I'm just being a little weird. But this is obvious. I mean, it's a completely obvious statement.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
Funny and apt, and I agree with Ravi’s wife 😉
Kate M
3 people like this.
Loved this talk! So interesting to find out how Ravi ended up in Canada and how this relates to Arjuna's dilemma of dharma. And, as a Canadian, I laughed when he described his wife's view of the USA! 
Alana Mitnick
Jenny, haha... Isn't Ravi delightful?! xo A
Alana Mitnick
Kate, me too! I so enjoy how Ravi blends humor, wisdom, insight and joy into his stories and teachings. So glad you're enjoying these clips. xo A 
1 person likes this.
I love Tavi’s mischievous smile and laughter. My partner is a physicist, so this episode gave me much amusement!
Alana Mitnick
Ali, me too!! Raviji's mischievous smile and endearing laughter is contagious. His teachings and presence are a gift. Love, Alana 

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