Ten thousand years worth of knowledge – for the taking

Sohan Giri

I read a facebook post  which is an excerpt from a story by Babu Rampuri. In this story  Sohan Giri jokingly accuses the narrator of taking ancient knowledge and give nothing in return. The narrator sees that despite being a joke, this is actually true:

Although this was just a joke, which the other young sadhus around the dhuni were enjoying, I had to admit that he was right. I just walk in, and because I’m a white boy, and logic and experience dictate that probably there is some money somewhere, the streets of Am-rika are paved with gold (or at least gold-plated), and because of my privilege, I presume that ten thousand years of secret knowledge should simply be handed over to me just for the asking.

This made me think, we should never cease to be grateful that the tens of thousands of years of wisdom which is encompassed in Hinduism is not secret, and for the most part is handed over just for the asking.

It also made me think about how we repay this. For the most part it is with thanks and respect, but unfortunately it is not always so.

Yoga instructors have been allowed to claim copyright on yoga postures that are thousands of years old. Similarly ayurvedic medicines have been patented. This is not just being ungrateful for what has been given freely, but turning round and using the legal system and international patent agreements to say “now you have to pay us to use it”. Fortunately the Indian government is taking steps to prevent this, forming the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library to document yoga, ayurveda and other local resources and knowledge. This was spurred by one of the most despicable attempts at biopiracy, when the Texan company RiceTec patented Basmati rice. If this had not been overturned by the Indian government it would have prevented exports, and if India adopts the patent laws that the US are pushing for would have meant that Indian farmers would have had to pay the Texan company for the right to grow crops that they had been using for generations.

Making it necessary for the Indian government to spend time, money, and resources on defending traditional knowledge and its plants is completely immoral.  Among the gifts of knowledge that are freely given, the West could do with taking a little more satya and asteya (the Hindu yamas, or avoidances of truth and non-stealing).

Image is a low resolution copy of that posted on Facebook by Baba Rampuri, which is considered fair use.

5 responses to “Ten thousand years worth of knowledge – for the taking

  1. It’s so true, especially here. Our conversations, echo out into this mini-universe online and hopefully pay the debt, even if just a bit<3

  2. Yes. Many yoga postures and Ayurvedic medicines are being patented by big companies. They take it frm here at very low price and then market it and make huge profit. I heard about this from Guruji Sri Sri Ravishankar, who is working against it.
    I happy that you all are joining with us against it. These patenting are harmfull not just to Indian but all. What knowledge bharat dharsana puts forward is for all and they aren’t marketing goods for MNCs.
    Great post.:-)

  3. Patenting those moves just shows that those folks haven’t taken the time to truly understand why they’re doing them. It makes me very very cautious before choosing a yoga studio, to make sure that I’m choosing one that respects the history and tradition behind the practice. One of my friends, a yoga teacher, rants about other studios a lot, since the one she teaches at starts by educating its students about all kinds of yoga (bhakti, seva, etc) before starting any sort of physical exercises.

    I think that as we become a more global society, we’re all going to have to be a lot more conscious of instances where something of another person’s culture is being appropriated, and make an effort to educate those around us who may be taking that for granted. Interaction with other cultures should be an opportunity for learning and growth, not for an easy profit.

  4. Indra Praveen

    [Tandava: Inline video changed to link] http://goo.gl/w7Zeb. Rajiv malhotra U-Turn.
    this has really ecome problem, which is being givenserious thought among Indian Hindus. But interestingly Indian govt has no heed to protect or think abt this.

  5. Maryam Straseskie

    Ayurvedic medicine is also great complement for traditional medicine. Both works in my case. :

    Our very own blog

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