Flow

Saraswati

What flows freely?

Knowledge. Inspiration. Ideas. Creativity.

Why?

Because that is its nature (quality).

This quality/nature is referred in Sanskrit as “Dharma”. Dharma has multiple meanings in different context. The popular meaning given to it is “duty”. But I’d like to focus on the meaning of Dharma as the quality of the effort or thought. In Hindu philosophy, thought is equally important as action. Intention is as important as goal. Means is as sacred as the end.

What is quality. What is nature?

How much ever we wish, a mango tree cannot grow to be an apple tree. They may all look same when they are seeds but when it develops, its quality manifests. We are all born of undifferentiated stem cells. But each of our body part has distinct quality. Each of us have distinct personality. Such is the nature of material world. The same applies to the non-physical world. Knowledge has a quality – they flow. They flow freely. It is compared with water. It nourishes. Civilizations flourished on river shores. Rich and poor, healthy and sick, men and women : everybody universally benefits.

In vedantic philosophy, nature of knowledge is compared to that of water. We are just a vessel. We don’t own the knowledge. It flows through us. We are merely a channel. We give knowledge a shape.┬áRomans have a word for this too – Genius. Genius is not a person but a spirit. It flows through individuals.

Today, we mistakenly compare knowledge to wealth (whose nature is fickle, unstable). We look at knowledge as “intellectual property”. We try to hoard it, we try to stop its flow, we try to hide it. We fight for it. But it flows nonetheless. You can dam it for sometime, but it will break free. That is its nature.

Your work is not of you, but from you…

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PS: I was inspired when thinking about the meaning of “Saraswati” – the goddess of knowledge. Its literal meaning is “the one with flow”. Most Indian names have meaning behind it. They describe some quality.

PPS: About the image in this post – Hinduism is very symbolic and visual. I grew up with Raja Ravi Varma’s painting of Saraswati that you see above. Its burnt into my head. Even today, the word Saraswati evokes this image in me. As you can see, Saraswati has a confident and composed posture, is associated with the color white (symbolizing pure and neutral quality of knowledge) and is typically shown near a flowing ┬ástream – symbolizing the free flow of knowledge.

PPPS: I took liberty to bucket knowledge, wisdom, ideas and creativity together. Obviously there are differences. Not all knowledge is wisdom and creativity has its own nature. I focused more on their commonality here.

PPPPS: There is a parallel between what I wrote here with the concepts in the beautiful book “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. That’s for another post. I bring this up here because it struck me that there is so much commanality of thought across civilizations, and across ancient and modern philosophy. It also brings up a point that once upon a time religion, philosophy and management were cut from the same cloth. It is only in the industrialization era that we started to disconnect them and my surprise to find this connection only highlights my ignorance of our past.

PPPPS: While thinking about the nature of knowledge being a flow and we being mere channels, I was reminded of this beautiful TED video of Elizabeth Gilbert – the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”. The author talks about the nature of genius.



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