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Decoding life, the Indian way

Janki Santoke, senior disciple of Swami Parthasarthy, is an exponent of Vedanta and has been practicing for the past 30 years. She will be speaking at International Centre of Goa, tomorrow, September 5 on the topic, ‘The Power of Thought’. In a conversation with NT BUZZ she deciphers various topics related to rationality, life, God and more

Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ

Janki Santoke has many followers. Her knowledge about Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita has helped her analyse and solve the challenges faced in personal and professional life. Her logical and engaging sessions bring home the relevance of the ancient words to today’s world.

Her talk tomorrow will tackle ‘What determines life? God? Chance? Destiny? Or myself’ and she will speak about ‘Power of Thought’.

Being rational and logical

The ability to reason is what defines being rational. ‘Think rationally’ is often a piece of advice we hear. It demands that we do things based on reason and logic, as opposed to impulsive, or whimsy actions.

Talking about the need for us to behave in a rational manner, Janki Santoke tells us that in simple words it means one who uses his head. “It is someone who has a strong intellect. If the intellect is not strong, one’s mind i.e. emotions, whims and fancies, likes and dislikes will take over one’s actions. That is like being on the highway of life, without a steering wheel to the car how can one reach one’s destination?,” she asks.

She believes that when our actions are governed by intellect we gain productivity, peace, harmony in relationships and spiritual growth.

The journey of understanding

Janki is a senior disciple of Swami Parthasarthy. She made Vedanta her way of life since 1988, mastering it and advocating it through lectures, corporate trainings, writings, etc. Her quest began when she was in her teens and she would see older people as confused as she was. “That convinced me that just getting older doesn’t solve anything. There must be knowledge about how to live life. There had to be some sensible way of doing it,” she tells us.

Her journey since has also been that of helping transform people’s lives by allowing them to understand concepts through a realistic and rational frame rather than just perception or based on experiences.

She says: “Perception is not the best way to know something. Though it is indispensable, perception must be backed by understanding. If this was not so, we would still believe the sun goes around the earth! Reason can tell us that though it appears so, it is not so.”

Life, learning and experiences

She says that experience is an incomplete way of learning. She cites a Latin quote, ‘Experience is the school master of fools’, and explains that not only is it a type of learning that is painful and time-consuming, but has yet another disadvantage. “It tends to teach people whatever they believe in the first place. If you have decided someone is bad, whatever that person does will appear bad to you. In any case, it is never experience that teaches. It is what you think about the experience that teaches.”

As she speaks she throws yet another question: “Don’t we know people who are committing the same mistakes over and over again?” She adds that what we think of the experience depends on the calibre of our intellects and thus it all comes back to developing a good intellect.

The power of thought

Janki elaborating the concept of ‘the power of thoughts’, gives insight into ‘why’ and ‘how’ the thoughts that come to our mind are powerful. She uses her own life as an example: “My life is the result of my thoughts. My thoughts can make my life or mar it. Most people attribute their life to external factors. We don’t understand how we are creating our life with our thoughts. Our thoughts have brought us here. Where we will go from here is also determined by our thoughts.”

God, religion and philosophy

For many people being religious is of utmost importance, following the prescribed dogmas and living a life acceptable to God. While many shut their minds off to philosophy, Santoke is of the opinion that one can be a dualist where philosophy and religion can be practised hand-in-hand. “Yes, philosophy and religion go hand-in-hand. Every religion comprises of three parts – ritual, mythology and philosophy. The ritual and mythology of every religion is different. But the philosophy is the same. All religious prophets have found the same truths, she explains.

Ask her about her take on God, his/her existence, the many forms religions, etc and she says that the Rig Veda exalts that there is only one truth, but people call it differently.

Philosophy and people

Very often, people justify situations, other people in their life as ‘chance’ and ‘destiny’. Santoke states that this simply lack of intellectual rigour and that when we are intellectually lazy we rest content with non-answers, rather than investigating.

According to her, following God’s commands or living as good human beings with social and ethical principles isn’t what we should be worried about or base our lives on. Instead by understanding what life is all about, both the aims will be satisfied.

Philosophy today is gaining more importance than ever. Besides allowing us to think critically, it shapes our opinion and attitude to towards life.

For some people it is a quest to attain knowledge. However, Santoke explains that the proportion of people interested in learning about life will remain constant in all times. “A very small percentage of people want to put in the effort. But as there are more people nowadays, obviously it seems that more people are interested,” she says.

Vedanta – the ultimate source of knowledge

Santoke’s philosophy of life lies in Vedanta. For her it is the only cure for all ills. She says: “Once this is known to the people, we won’t have ecological imbalances or bitter divorces or lack of success or poverty or stress or the many ills that beset humankind and our companion species.”

She tells us that in Vedanta, one of the six schools of thought laid down in Indian philosophy where she found her answers, has been here for thousands of years. “Every Indian should know this. In fact every human should. When India had this knowledge it was not only the richest country but also the most peaceful one,” she emphasises.

Talking about the benefits of adopting Vedanta philosophy in life, Santoke says that it deals with the eternal principles of life. “This is to be differentiated from commandments, ‘dos and don’ts’,” she says. According to her Vedanta does not tell anyone how they should live their life, but educates about the eternal laws of life; laws such as ‘desires cause agitation’. Without desire there can be no agitation. ‘Agitations reduce productivity.’ “When the mind is agitated, our capacity to work diminishes. Once you understand the laws of life, you have to decide what you want to do. This is an education, not a creation of followers,” she highlights.

She concludes stating that a strong intellect enables us to have a vision beyond mere self-aggrandisement. “When we learn the art of cooperative endeavour, when we can work for something higher, better, nobler than ourselves we will find satisfaction, productivity and enlightenment.”

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