Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 05:06:25

A Man Of Spiritual Integrity

Updated: February 9, 2013 5:07 pm

I liked the title of this book Dr. Karan Singh: The Portrait of a Statesman. So that’s one way of describing Dr. Karan Singh and I expected that the book would take us through the statesmanlike actions and thoughts of Dr. Karan Singh. In some ways it does; if you have the patience to wade through the whole book, it will take you through many facets of his life that reflect his persona as a statesman. There are other things too, so it isn’t just about Dr. Karan Singh as a statesman. The book also gives us insights into many things that are connected with India: India’s political development, the life and times of people in the last four or five decades. It is also as much a reflection of Professor Gandhi’s own views on so many matters. So, the two are forever interwoven and you cannot tell when Professor Gandhi’s own views cease and Dr. Karan Singh’s image emerges. In some ways, I thought this would be his Boswell to Dr. Karan Singh.

The thing is that the book is largely anecdotal, a personal history from the viewpoint of Professor Gandhi; of India, of Dr. Karan Singh and of the many personalities that move in and out. But it is still a very interesting book. I realised that there were things that I did not know which come across in this book. As I said, if one has the patience and strength to wade through the whole book, you do come across many things.

I must mention my own view of Dr. Karan Singh and this is a view that has evolved over a period of time and as I said, I have known him from my student days. There are so many facets to Dr. Karan Singh; he has been a politician, a statesman, he has had controversies connected with him. But the one consistent thread is that I, forever, believe he is on a spiritual quest.

The book mentions this categorically, that very early in his life Dr. Karan Singh was influenced by Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia. But what set him on to this journey, you know, coming from a privileged background I haven’t come across too many examples of people, in that milieu who, so early in life, decide to set out on this spiritual quest. And consistently in all his writings, in all his expressions, in all his thoughts, there lurks this man whose soul wants to find some method of union with that Supreme Being. I have always felt this.

In his reflections of society, the ills of India, his concerns about what needs to be done, again there is this man of spiritual integrity that is forever being expressed. Professor Gandhi mentions this. He may or may not consistently stick to this viewpoint that here is a man on a spiritual quest, but he does mention all the things from which you can draw this inference—that Dr. Karan Singh is really on a spiritual quest and I would like to stick to this theme. Whether it’s his views on music, Dr. Karan Singh’s views on music are so clear, so categorical. He says it leads to purification of the soul. It finds expression of the spiritual within, the spirituality within to come out. He insists that music must form a part of any education curriculum; I am not talking about syllabus of the curriculum, that’s very clear, and for that reason, other reasons may come or not come.

The other thing that I find Professor Gandhi comes about very clearly is Dr. Karan Singh’s open-minded liberalism. At one level, Dr. Karan Singh is the senior statesman. He is a man, a visionary; he is a man who sees things that ordinary people do not see. Where does he have the time or the inclination to be open to rock and pop music?

But he is; he is clearly, and Professor Gandhi must be given credit for that. He brings that out. I can see that most facets of Dr. Karan Singh’s personality, his life, his ideals are all embedded in this book. You just need to stay the course and you will come across all those facets.

 By Prof. Dinesh Singh

(The author is Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University)

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