STOI remembers Vinayak Krishna Gokak

STOI remembers Vinayak Krishna Gokak
Rishikesh Bahadur Desai, TNN
2 August 2009, 05:45am IST

Even as the debate rages on whether Kannada should be the medium of instruction in schools in Karnataka, the state gets ready to observe the birth centenary of the man who mooted the idea. STOI remembers Vinayak Krishna Gokak — legendary scholar, writer, teacher, and institution builder. The occasion will be celebrated in Bangalore on Aug. 3 and 4 as well as in Dharwad on Aug. 9 and 10.

In his famous report, Gokak advocated primacy to Kannada in education and administration. But, he was also a Jnanpith Award winner, distinguished academician and inspiring teacher.

He studied the status of other Indian languages in states where they were spoken. “However, the report is not just about implementing Kannada in Karnataka. Gokak felt that all Indian languages should get primacy in their states,” says his student and Hindi poet Siddalinga Pattanashetty.

Gokak was born in Savanur village, and climbed his way up through hard work. In 1938, he became the first non-white pupil to top Oxford University in its 340-year-old history.

Gokak changed the course of Kannada literature by batting for modernism as early as 1940. He won the Jnanpith Award for the modern epic Bharata Sindhu Rashmi. He was among the few modern Indian academicians who produced creative literature in more than one language. He wrote poetry in Kannada and English and spoke with authority on literature in Marathi, Gujarati and Sanskrit.

“As a writer and translator, he introduced Indian values and culture to the West. As head of academic institutions, he implemented the best practices from around the world into Indian education,” recalls his student and writer Chandrashekar Patil.

His teaching is the stuff of legend. His student Surendranath Minajigi recalls in his book on Gokak: “He was a creative influence, a cult figure on campus and students imitated him.” He was so popular in Pune that students from other colleges attended his classes.

He was the founding spirit behind several prestigious institutions like the Central Institute of English in Hyderabad and the M N College in Gujarat. CIE was to set the template for teaching and research in English in India. He introduced value-based education in the Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, as its vice-chancellor.

Gokak committee and agitation
The Gokak agitation, demanding primacy to Kannada in Karnataka, was the first high-voltage pro-Kannada agitation after the one demanding unification of Karnataka in the 1950s. It started with the R Gundu Rao government failing to implement his report.

The Rao government formed the Gokak committee in 1980, after being criticized for its policy of regarding Sanskrit as the first language in schools. Gokak submitted his report in 1981 and recommended that Kannada be taught as the first language in schools. An agitation broke out when the government did not seem enthusiastic about implementing it. Though writers and Kannada activists started the agitation, it became hugely popular and glamorous when film stars led by Rajkumar joined it. The Kannada film industry struck work and stars led rallies across the state.

Life & times

  • Born in Savanur (Haveri dt) on Aug. 09, 1909
  • Joined Karnataka College, Dharwad after elementary education in Savanur
  • Won Daxina scholarship and Ellis prize for academic achievement
  • Completed MA English literature in 1931
  • First non-white to top Oxford University in 1938
  • Published first poetry collection in English
  • Started writing in Kannada under Bendre’s influence
  • Wrote 70 books that include creative works in English and Kannada literature, education, and contemporary thought
  • Awarded the Jnanpith for `Bharat Sindhu Rashmi’, an epic work of 35,000 lines on Indian cultural history
  • Served as president of the Bharatiya Jnanpith
  • Died in Bangalore in 1992

Time Of India Reference

Dr. Vinayaka Krishna Gokak (the first vice chancellor of Sathya Sai Baba’s university The Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) related how one day he asked Sathya Sai Baba to come to his house for a meal. Sathya Sai Baba readily accepted.

Dr. Gokak was excited, cleaned his house, and waited for Sathya Sai Baba to come. Days and weeks passed. A year went by, Dr. Gokak began to think that Satya Sai Baba had forgotten.

Then one day, while sitting in front of altar, he noticed that the most prominent pictures were of a guru he had in the past and still had a fondness towards the pictures. Off to the side and hanging on the wall was a small picture of Sathya Sai Baba. “This is not right,” thought Dr. Gokak.

Remembering that now Sathya Sai Baba was the main focus of his devotion, he quickly changed the placement of pictures so that Sai Baba’s picture was in the centre.That very day, just after this seemingly small change occurred Sathya SaiBaba came to Dr. Gokak and said warmly, “Now I will come for the meal.”

When Baba visited Dr. Gokak’s home, he saw on the wall for the first time a portrait of an Indian saint, Shri Panta Maharaja of Balekundri, and asked about its presence there.

The Vice-Chancellor replied to Baba that the saint had been his father’s guru, and that he, himself, held the holy man in great reverence.

Sathya Sai Baba: “Have you a smaller portrait of him to carry when you’re travelling?”

Dr. Gokak: “No.”

Sathya Sai Baba: “Would you like one?”

Dr. Gokak: “Yes, Swami, very much.”

Sathya Sai Baba waved his hand, for a little longer than usual, remarking, “He is coming.” Turning the palm up, he handed the doctor a small enamel pendant. It bore a miniature replica of the saint’s portrait.

At another time, Dr. Gokak was to address a large gathering of Sai Devotees in the USA. Orator that he was, the crowd was expecting a heavy downpour of his resonant voice in meaningful words, but nothing came out for a minute or two. Dr Gokak could not believe such a situation he was in for the first time in his life. Suddenly he remembered Swami and mentally prayed to Him. And to his great surprise he found Swami sitting in the front row with smiling benediction. And then there was a torrential flow from the Professor providing a treat to the audience.

Book: Gokak, Vinayak Krishna, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba : an interpretation / Vinayak Krishna Gokak Abhinav Publications, New Delhi : 1975

Law And Justice

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


Law And Justice

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.

Justice Dinakaran is a Judge of the Madras High Court. A scholar well versed in law, he recently wrote an article in a leading national daily entitled, Law and Justice. The article was supposedly secular but since it touched, unknowingly perhaps, a few basic aspects of Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings, we thought it might be useful to bring it to your attention.

Justice Dinakaran’s point is essentially the following. There is a thing called Law, consisting of rules laid down by Society, by due process of course, such as enactment by duly constituted legislative bodies. People are expected to follow the Law and when there is a breach, the Law is “administered” through the instrumentality of the Court. However, the Law is not supposed to be applied mechanically, but with human considerations, as Shakespeare points out powerfully in Merchant of Venice. In this context, Justice Dinakaran makes the following important observations:

Most of the legal rights and wrongs are relative to time and place. “A nuisance,” said Justice Sutherland, “may merely be a right thing in a wrong place like a pig in the parlour instead of in the barnyard.”

  • Justice means nothing else than conformity of the law of nature. Human law is subject to it, and if in any point it is directly contrary to the Law of Nature, it would no longer be law but a corruption of law.
  • The excellence of Justice consists precisely in the fact that it is compounded of the truth, the good, and the beautiful. Truth is the foundation of justice. Goodness is the end and beauty constitutes its essential quality.
  • Human law is a rivulet that flows from natural law, which, in turn flows from the Eternal Law.
  • Modern man has turned liberty into self-will and licence, which he has tried to justify with his marvellous powers of reasoning. In truth, the mind of modern man is severely blinded by the cobwebs of false reasoning and trivialised knowledge.
  • Times change, customs alter. But the history of mankind continues to testify to some constant and unchanging ideals, one of which is the concept of justice predicated upon humanitarian considerations.

Well, that in brief is the essence of what Justice Dinakaran wrote. What attracted our attention to his article were his references to 1) Eternal law, 2) the origin of “human law” in Eternal Law, and 3) Truth, Goodness and Beauty. All these have strong echoes in the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba, and that is what we would now like to discuss.

Sathya Sai Baba says that the human being is an Embodiment of the Divine Atma – in fact in earlier years He would always begin His Discourses with the word Divyatmaswaroopalara, which means exactly that. If we all are the Embodiments of the Atma, then it stands to reason that the actions expected of us ought to be in conformity with the nature of the Atma. Stated differently it means that our actions must be Selfless, Truthful, Righteous, Helpful and Compassionate, full of Love etc. We might loudly protest that all this is fanciful and not possible in this day and age. That is a different matter. The fact is that just as one expects a King or the Prime Minister to behave responsibly and with dignity, and not as a joker, serious pursuit of the Spiritual Path places on us the responsibility of ensuring that our actions are as close to the nature of the Atma as possible.

Now one might ask: “That’s OK, but what has all that got to do with Justice Dinakaran’s article?” We are coming to that, but first, we would like to introduce two key words closely related to the concepts discussed by Justice Dinakaran. They are: Atma Dharma and Para Dharma.

Atma Dharma is the Primary Principle that must govern the actions of one and all, from the King to the pauper, at all times, and in all circumstances. Para Dharma, on the other hand, is a derivative of Atma Dharma, and essentially spells out what specifically must be done by whom and when. Thus, while the Primary Principle that governs all actions applies to everyone without exception, the Derivative Principle is not only individual-specific but also time- and situation-specific. All this may sound very mysterious and so let us recall some of the examples Swami Himself has mentioned.

We will start with Atma Dharma, which is the Primary Principle. This just says that every individual, without any exception, must always act to be in harmony with the intrinsic nature of the Atma. Thus, considerations based on selfishness, hatred, anger, jealousy, etc. are summarily excluded – no justification available whatsoever. We hope that is reasonably clear.

What about ParaDharma? It simply means Rules of Conduct that are individual-specific; and these rules must not contradict the basic principle or AtmaDharma. Let us illustrate by taking the case of a Teacher. To begin with, the Teacher must start from the Primary Principle and thus make sure that when he performs his duties as a Teacher, his actions are not tainted by selfishness, greed, etc. Remember, no one is allowed to be selfish, greedy, etc., and that includes the Teacher. For example, if the son of the Teacher is studying in his class, he must not show that son of his any special favour. Likewise, he must not make private deals with backward students, offering them private tuition for fees, and so on.

Turning to the ParaDharma aspect or the Derivative Principle, here the do’s and don’ts are specific to his role in Society as a Teacher. Thus, he must be punctual, he must come fully prepared for his class, he must be neatly dressed and set a good example of behaviour to his students, he must go out of the way to help students develop their character and so on. In short, he must feel all the time that he is serving Society and through Society, he is serving God.

It all boils down to this: For all humans without exception, there is oneUniversal Guiding Principle governing every action in all situations and at all times; and that is what Swami refers to as AtmaDharma. AtmaDharma is also what Krishna explained to Arjuna in the BhagavadGita.

Para Dharma is the manual, which decodes this Universal Guiding Principle and explains how individuals apply that to specific situations. By way of highlighting how Para Dharma is very practical and situation-specific, Swami says that a man who is the Chief Justice must appear in the Court in formal Legal Robes but when he is at home, he can wear casual clothes. Similarly, when a person is say fifteen, his Para Dharma is that of a student. At thirty when he is married and has a family, his ParaDharma is that of a householder. At sixty, his ParaDharma is that of a grandfather and so on. Same person, but with change of situation, the rules of conduct change. Though the ParaDharma might change, at all times and in all circumstances, the person must be truthful and follow the righteous path – that is how the core principle always operates.

In passing, it is interesting to note the following: In the Rama Avatar, Sathya SaiBaba demonstrated to the world through every one of His actions, how ParaDharma must always be in sync with AtmaDharma. Later, as Krishna , Swami explained to the world what precisely is meant by AtmaDharma. Finally, in the current Avatar as Sri Sathya Sai, Swami is not only giving us a continuous demo of Para Dharma in action but also explaining to us on every possible occasion, what Atma Dharma is all about.

Now how does all this connect up with Justice Dinakaran’s remarks? In the following way: The learned scholar is of course concerned mostly about Law and its administration through Courts, but when he says man-made laws must be subservient to the Eternal Law, what he is saying is that rules for Society must be in conformity with a basic and fundamental as well as universal and Eternal Moral Principle. Many of today’s problems arise because law makers have distanced themselves from Morality. Thus, as a French savant once wrote, what is forbidden by Morality is now permitted by Law. This is reflected by the observation of many a Judge of the Indian Court that though they know the defendant is guilty, the loopholes of the legal system do not permit them to convict the person.

Gandhi declared most emphatically that there is a Moral Law governing the Universe. Time there was when people intuitively accepted this. Thus, thousands of years ago when Emperor Manu codified for Indian Society the rules of conduct for people in various walks of life, the so-called Manu Dharma, he was essentially giving manuals of ParaDharma that were in full conformity with AtmaDharma. Similarly, when Bhishma on his deathbed instructed Yudhishtra on the rules of proper governance, he was merely laying out the ParaDharma of a ruler, in accordance with the general principles of AtmaDharma.

In summary, while Justice Dinakaran has called attention to the fallacies of the modern legal system on account of their failure to respect the Eternal Law, we go one step further to point out what Swami tells us, namely that these days, most of the actions of humans are flawed because they are not in tune with the basic inner nature of a human being, that is the latent Divinity. As long as this true nature is forgotten, everything that humans do, in all spheres of activity, from governance to science, from business to arts, will be driven by selfishness and hence likely to be dangerous to the individual, to Society and indeed to planet earth. Thus it is that Krishna told Arjuna to always align his actions to AtmaDharma; Swami also gives us that very same advice.

AtmaDharma is not any hairy fairy concept; it is very practical and very much needed in daily life. There is no need to discover it the hard way when it has been explained to us so many times in such pitiless detail. Do you agree?

With Love and Regards,

“Heart2Heart” Team