By Janet Murphy
Winchester, United Kingdom
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 India, which prompted him to research western scholars like Fritof Capra, Ralph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau to name a few.
This perspective of India in the eyes of Western giants is what has led to the creation of this book which Gewali has undertaken since his early days. The researcher has collected quotes from these greats 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. From Ved Vyasa to Chanakya, Swami Vivekananda, Indian philosophers have moulded India’s history to what it is today, and have educated thousands of minds, even western ones. Gewali aims to reveal to his readers who central Indian philosophy and its relationship with the sciences is to modern philosophical and scientific interpretation.
Great Minds of India, originally published in 1998 in xerox format and then again by Academic Publication in 2009, and later Penguin kindle edition in 2013, was seen as a landmark in modern Indian literature as it demonstrated Indian heritage in the modern world and managed to ignite fire into ancient Indian history. 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 Xerox format. His work has been approved by NASA scientist Dr Kamlesh Lulla, specialist in remote sensing and geosciences, indicating the absolute weight of Gewali’s work.
A few of the articles which I encountered that published from a Chicago-based media planted a seed of interest in Indian history which has stayed with me since, resulting in me choosing university modules around Indian history. These articles surround western giants and their relationship to India. Most if not all of these western intellectuals found themselves shocked at just how far Indian wisdom dated back, as well as being able to prove or disprove what were thought to be exclusively western ideas, such as rejecting a Newtonian world view. Werner Heisenberg, German physicist and quantum mechanic, 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.
Another article which I in 2018 must have elevated Gewali’s book, calling it a landmark research work that will detoxify India. Many in India have found hope with the publication of such articles and the book by Gewali, especially because of the long period of native scholars who have undermined Indian history and literary heritage. The effects of colonisation on India have resulted in it being seen as a third world country, unable to climb out of the hole it’s been left in after years of oppression and resource extraction. This idea of India is far from the full story, and its history of trade and commerce from as early as the 4th century, as well as the wealth of knowledge of about the universe. This book has been able to support my already existing knowledge of Indian wisdom and I hope anyone who reads it is planted with the seed too.
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. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the greatest spiritual books in Indian culture, states that “yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”, which truly encapsulates what yoga means to a lot of people. 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. Even if many people have statues of Buddha in their houses or participate in yoga exercises, the lack of deep appreciation for Indian culture and heritage necessitates a link to bring its history to western users, and Gewali pointing its readers towards western figures who understood Indian wisdom is the best way to do it.
Some of the best quotes Gewali has cited which appealed to me are by Western figures like Einstein who wholeheartedly believed that Indian wisdom has shaped everything the west knows of science and maths. His quote “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made” reveals how Indian knowledge is the foundations of modern scientific understanding. Further quote, like this one from W. Butler Yeats, highlights how the boundless scope of knowledge and spiritualism captivated the western knowledge seekers: “It was only my first meeting with the Indian philosophy that confirmed my vague speculations and seemed at once logical and boundless.” It’s simply amazing.
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. He expresses how these philosophers, and later the spiritual scholars like Vivekananda, and Paramahansa Yogananda – the revered guru of American business magnate Steve Jobs, were the first to directly reveal the greatness of India and her heritage to him. While this article could have been placed at the beginning of the book as a foreword or epilogue, the importance of his words shouldn’t be neglected. Realising that it became obvious that the world wasn’t acknowledging the roots of these scientists, Gewali set to researching Indian influence, and his passion for rebuilding Indian reputation is remarkable.
The sole goal of Salil Gewali being 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. It is hoped all right-thinking scholars will find his work extremely applaudable.