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Standing on the shoulders of Giants

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants", is what Isaac Newton, the British physicist and mathematician and founder of modern classical physics, said. He attributes his seminal works and discoveries to generations of people prior to him - those who started constructing knowledge and on which he was able to add something of his own. The above statement made by Newton in his letter to his rival Robert Hooke is based on what John of Salisbury, who wrote a little more in detail, during 12th century in his book Metalogicon - "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than them, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours." Many of us today might have sought after degree certificates from reputed colleges/universities and high academic achievements. We might have employment, or are employers, in reputed organisations with handsome incomes. We might have travelled the globe. We might have acquired a lot of materialistic wealth. We might be recognised for our accomplishments and achievements. These tend to give us a sense of superiority over our own lineage/ancestors who lived a less exciting life and lived anonymously. The tangible accomplishments of today could lead to thoughts and feelings that we, in the modern times, have achieved more in our lives than our ancestors did. A careful comparison reveals that they lived in times where the economic conditions were less favorable and when information, communication, travel and other facilities were not as pervasive as today. Our intellectual capabilities today are definitely not superior than our own genetically connected ancestors. In fact, some of them would be intellectually far more capable than us. If they were to have lived in current times, they could have accomplished much more than what we have! Further, the goals of the lives they pursued were based on all the four पुरुषार्थ - धर्म, अर्थ, काम, मोक्ष. Today, we pursue अर्थ and काम and are nearly ignorant of even the need for the other two. Their usefulness to the society, through impeccable conduct and practices, could have been high. The चित्तशुद्धि (purity of mind) they had achieved through relentless साधन is not even worth comparing with ours. They pursued and persisted in doing all these in spite of living under unfavorable political and economic conditions. Our 'accomplishments' do not indicate our superiority over our previous generations. Our accomplishments can be fully attributed to living in favorable conditions. The relentless efforts to undermine the achievements of our ancestors who lived in this land is a known fact. The principles of life and practices of our land have been mocked and labelled as superstitions. The British and the pseudo-intellectuals, through manipulating the political, media and academic systems, have been successful in infusing severe inferiority complex in us about our own past. The genesis of the condescending attitude, many carry towards our own people from previous generations and towards the principles on which they based their lives, is ignorance coupled with arrogance. On the contrary, we should be grateful to our ancestors for sustaining the culture - knowledge and value system on which we are able to build our accomplishments. We can see much further and grow much further if we stand on the shoulders of the giants - the true giants of our land.

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