In this world we find that all happiness is followed by misery as its shadow. Life has its shadow, death. They must go together, because they are not contradictory, not two separate existences, but different manifestations of the same unit, life and death, sorrow and happiness, good and evil.                                                                                                                                                        –Swami Vivekananda

In the age of global connectivity, the wisdom of ancient traditions transcends borders, capturing the attention and admiration of seekers worldwide. Among these profound legacies, the teachings of Vedanta have emerged as a beacon of spiritual enlightenment. As we delve into the depths of this ageless philosophy, we uncover the essence that has captivated not only the East but also the West.

With the arrival of Swami Vivekananda, the luminous message of Vedanta began to resonate beyond the shores of India. The question arises: what draws the Western world toward India in this neo-modern Vedantic era? The answer, undoubtedly, lies in the compelling lives and teachings of figures like Swami Vivekananda and his mentor Sri Ramakrishna. Yet, it’s also the profound insights offered by Vedanta itself that magnetize minds—a philosophy that unveils the full spectrum of human potential.

Vedanta, at its core, asserts that truth can be perceived from myriad perspectives. It maintains that this truth is not an abstract concept but a tangible reality that can be directly experienced in the present moment. This revelation, when attained, signifies spiritual liberation, encompassing humanity’s aspirations and dreams to an immeasurable extent. Within the tapestry of Vedanta lies the understanding of a singular reality—Brahman—an existence encapsulated in the timeless utterance of the Upanishads: “You are that.”

This edition of Ka Jingshai is adorned with insights from prominent Vedantins in the West. Revered Swami Yogatmanandaji, minister-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of Providence and well-known to the readers of Ka Jingshai, graces these pages with his wisdom. Additionally, Revered Swami Chetanandaji shares his profound knowledge, addressing questions related to Vedanta, Indian values, and interfaith harmony while highlighting the endeavours of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis in the “Across Boundaries” section.

This time the magazine also presents a historical narrative titled “Tales of Ancient Shillong: The Eerie Earthquake” by Uma Purkayastha. The article unveils the transformation of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, from a wilderness to a thriving city. The account vividly describes the devastating earthquake that shook the town on June 12, 1897, resulting in destruction and loss of life. This catastrophe prompted a shift towards more resilient construction methods, highlighting Shillong’s ability to endure amidst adversities.

In the Hindi section, Dr. Rajiv Ranjan Prasad sheds light on “अरुणाचल प्रदेश की ज्ञान-संस्कृति और संकटग्रस्त भाषाएँ”. He underscores the importance of comprehending the sociology and folklore of Arunachal Pradesh’s tribal communities. Dr. Prasad voices concern over the erosion of tribal culture, a concern exemplified through an interview with an elderly village elder. The article delves into the diverse tribal communities of Arunachal Pradesh, their rich linguistic heritage, oral folk traditions, and the profound connection they share with their mountainous environment.

Additionally, the Hindi section features an article titled “त्याग और बलिदान की जाग्रत प्रतिमूर्ति – सती जयमती” by Smt Kalpana Devi Atreya. The article resonates with Swami Vivekananda’s vision of women as embodiments of strength, blending saintliness with heroism. The narrative highlights the inspiring tale of Veerangana Jayamati, an extraordinary woman from Northeast India. Enduring torture and refusing to betray her husband’s location, she sacrificed her life to liberate her people from unjust rulers. Her legacy continues to shine as “Jaymati Diwas,” celebrating courage, sacrifice, and women’s empowerment.

Turning our attention to the Khasi section, Wanjoplang Kurbah explores the intricate marriage customs of Wahkhen Village. This section emphasizes the sanctity of inter-clan unions and underscores the role of upbringing in shaping these revered traditions.

As we traverse the realms of Vedanta, the pages of this magazine come alive with the symphony of ancient wisdom, contemporary insights, and timeless narratives. Vedanta’s allure lies not merely in its philosophies, but in its ability to inspire a harmonious unity among diverse cultures and thoughts. In embracing Vedanta, we embrace a bridge that unites the past, present, and future—a bridge that guides us toward self-realization and universal understanding


For good or for evil, the religious ideal has been flowing into India for thousands of years; for good or for evil, the Indian atmosphere has been filled with ideals of religion for shining scores of centuries; for good or for evil, we have been born and brought up in the very midst of these ideas of religion, till it has entered into our very blood and tingled with every drop in our veins, and has become one with our constitution, become the very vitality of our lives.

-Swami Vivekananda


The epic Mahabharata as a legend is considered the foundation of Indian history and philosophy. With 2,111 chapters, 100,000 verses, 18 books (or “parvas”), 107 sub-parvas, and the appendix Harivamsha, is the longest epic in existence. The magnitude of this work is eight times larger than the size of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey combined. Not only is it a captivating story, but it also holds a wealth of profound knowledge and understanding about Indian culture and values. It has enthralled generations and remains an inspiration to people today.

The great sage Veda Vyasa, also known as Krishna Dvaipayana, is credited with writing this epic according to folklore. The Mahabharata introduces us to a wide variety of human characters, ranging from the sublime to the absurd. No human emotion, act of bravery, charity, selflessness, or malice is overlooked in this epic. Śri Krishna is undoubtedly the most brilliant and picturesque personality projected by the epic. He appears on the scene suddenly at the time of Draupadi’s svayamvara and continues to appear throughout the story. All his energies are channeled in one direction: protection of the right and the good, and punishment or destruction of the wicked. His remarkable prowess, matched only by the bewitching beauty of his perfect form, sage counsels, superb stratagems, and immensely superior statesmanship, captivate our hearts. The epic portrays him as God Himself come down to save mankind, as he himself admits in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a part of this great Epic.

In this edition of Ka Jingshai- the Light, we are delighted to present the Khasi rendition ‘Ka Mahabharata. Translated by Sri H L Pde and prof Streamlet Dkhar in 1974. This timeless classic had been lost to the annals of history.

In the English section of this edition, we bring you a rich variety of articles. You can read about the Vivekananda Cultural Centre from the memoirs of Smt. Champa Sen Choudhury, reminiscences of the late Dr. Bidhu Bhushan Dutta, and an exclusive interview with Prof. Ruth Harris from Oxford University. These articles offer unique perspectives on Indian culture and provide readers with valuable insights into the cultural legacy.

In the unexplored pages of history, tribute is paid to the freedom fighters of Northeast India – ‘Pa Togan Nengminja Sangma’ of Meghalaya and ‘Pioli Phukan’, a freedom fighter of Assam, who sacrificed their lives. This issue also raises serious contemporary issues such as the increasing migration from villages. The literary section features the poem ‘Jheeni-Jheeni Beeni Chadariya…’, while short stories ‘Catherine’ and ‘Moch’ are devoted to social concerns. The arrival of the season of spring ‘Basant’ and strength ‘Shakti’ are celebrated in Poesy.

We express our gratitude to the authors for entrusting us with their extraordinary works, allowing us to share them with our esteemed readers. With this edition of Ka Jingshai, we present a wonderful opportunity for our readers to explore the multifaceted and vivacious culture of India. We sincerely hope that this edition brings you immense pleasure and that the articles within it touch your hearts and inspire you to develop a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of India.

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Certainly Uncertain

Ka lynti ka kylluid
Ka mon ka laitluid
La me kwah ban long briew
Ne me kwah ban long ksuid

The path is wide, the will is free, whether you wish to be a human, or you wish to be a demon.

Mawphlang, 27 May 2020
They were playing outside their hut, and little Daphi was dangling from her father’s arm. It had been pouring for days. The picturesque village of Madan Bitaw was gloomy beyond words, but still, the joy of a father and a daughter filled the atmosphere with an air of lightness. It rained incessantly, and the rumbling of clouds muffled some unmistakable omens. Suddenly they heard a massive thud and turned back to discover that a part of their house, was lying in the gorge below.
Beirut, 4 August 2020
Merged in himself, Zuhair was gliding his fingers through the piano. Initially, he did not notice that the clock was unusually jittery, and the small statue of Buddha on his table came to life with a sudden shudder. As the eerie movements continued for a few more seconds, he fell back on his musical mood and tried hard to ignore them. But soon, he failed not to see the curtains blowing up, and the room strewn with glasses with a bang and a dazzling light, only to be cursed to darkness right after.
If we struggle to go beyond the confines of certainty, we reach an elusive expectation of regularity. The rhythm of life that we have got used to over the years of going through the ruts, with our repetitive thoughts, actions, and even dreams, gets a jolt when something unusual happens. It happens in imperceptible forms in our daily lives, but seldom does it take the shape of the present crisis humanity has been going through. The pandemic has made us stand in front of the precipice of uncertainty. With everything slipping from our hands, we are clenching our fists against anything floating by. Is it in anger or desperation? We do not know.
Heisenberg tells us that the basis of the universe is uncertainty at the micro-level. But still, even at the cosmological scale, Nature displays perfect regularity. As if it is testifying to an oxymoron! Being the conscious centres of it, we have an immense opportunity to explore the mysteries and to find ways through the mire of incongruence – an incongruence that bewilders us.
Standing in front of the yawning chasm of death we wonder what this inchoate life means. We turn our eyes inwards, and as we go towards the centre of the revolving wheel, we start discovering a peace that permeates all our actions. We open our eyes, wondering how we missed the underlying symphony in a world full of apparent discord and in this flux of events, we learn to hold on to the stream that flows steadily through us.
Tip briew, tip blei. To understand man is to understand the Great Divinity beyond. The One who is beyond the world of sorrow and uncertainty.

Back to Autumn 2020

Stability, Unity and Progress

If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed punyabhumi (sacred land) … the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality it is India

-Swami Vivekananda

India has a unique culture and civilization which we should preserve with utmost commitment. Though
many civilizations have dwindled with the passage of time, our culture and civilization have been resilient.
Despite facing rough weather, they remained solid for several thousand years. This is because there is
something unique about our culture and civilization.
Ideas that influenced Indian culture the most– truth, justice, love, peace, harmony, and so on. Swami
Vivekananda believed that social changes should uphold Indian traditions and not hurt them. So long as India remained true to those traditions, she is safe.
As India celebrates Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, 75 years of independence under the yoke of British rule,
perhaps we may look at the past. Among the south Asian countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last 75 years, ours is a country that has maintained stability.
As the future is built on the foundations of the past, the successes and failures of post-independence has
provided an impetus to address the challenges of the days to come. There is no better time than today to
remember the brave heroes who sacrificed their everything for the nation. In the present issue, we offer the episodes of U Tirot Singh, U Sib Charan Roy and Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Golakganj.
As we read about Khasi traditional home remedies (Khasi), Traditional Medicine: its importance and
protection (English). we feel that not only our history but even the customs and rites can instill the spirit of patriotism in us.
Hindi Articles display an array of authors, most of whom hail from a non-Hindi-speaking part of our
country. Again Hindi writing of North East India ‘Khwahishon Ka Asma’ is held in esteem by an author of
Gujarat Tulika Shree. Srutimala Duara in her compelling narrative takes us to the village of Arunachal.
Dr Jeffery D Long’s personal account featured in the Across boundaries section will leave a lasting effect
on the readers.
Let us accept and admire our past and create. Create bridges that bind past and future, bridges that bond
heritage and innovation

Back to Autumn 2022)

Shaking off Shackles

Come out into the broad open light of day, come out from the little narrow paths, for how can the infinite soul rest content to live and die in small ruts? Come out into the universe of Light. Everything in the universe is yours, stretch out your arms and embrace it with love. If you ever felt you wanted to do that, you have felt God.

  • Swami Vivekananda
    Is it a mere soliloquy that I hear in the breeze, rustling through the pines or does it echo the voices of thousands winding their way through Lum Sohpetbneng?
    We cannot say unless we delve deep into the annals of the vast peninsula that stretches below the Himalayan range into the confluence of three oceans. The land has been a home for thousands of races and fostered cultures for centuries together. The immense cultural diversity is evident from changing dialects or even the language in every couple of hundreds of kilometres. Scholars were left to wonder how despite this diversity the Indian nation thrived, whereas the Soviet Union was shattered to pieces. There were times when dark shadows hung over the land, bloodshed – with pen and sword – swept across it and burnt it to ashes. Internal rifts moved towards full-blown crises. Pandemics, just like the ongoing COVID-19, pushed the country into depths of peril. But again, the nation lifted itself just as Phoenix rises from ashes.
    This points to some elixir that the nation has dearly held to its bosom. What is that? Though it may sound paradoxical, it is nothing but religion, pure and simple, that has been running through the veins of this nation. Questions may arise, how can the element which has caused much strife in societies, be held responsible for breaking the barriers. We admit that what went by the name of religion has allowed differences to fester and divisions to run deep. In spite of that, we know that those will be regarded by posterity as mere aberrations than precedents. Religion, stripped off its non-essentials, is universal and is synonymous with spirituality. The innate human goodness cannot be buried eternally. The shadow that looms over human nature can only be shattered with the light of spirituality. In the times when storms blur our vision, threaten to uproot us from the holds, we need the light evermore, the light – that engulfs without drowning, cheers without inebriating and enlightens without burning.



“Change not thy nature, gentle bloom,
Thou violet, sweet and pure,
But ever pour thy sweet perfume
Unasked, unstinted and sure!”.

Among all the shades of nature, perhaps, rain is an enigma. In some it inspires awe, to some, it is an invitation to plunge into their souls, again to some it is nothing but gloom. Be it as it may, it never fails to tinge our minds. It enters us through the dazzles in the dark, soft rumbles, the pleasant chill and mostly through the unmistakable footprints of its arrival – the sweet scent of the earth – the petrichor.
People are inseparable from the land to which they belong. It permeates their beings in an unconscious way. It may be likened to the fragrance of a rose that is indissolubly connected with it or a silent scar that never allows them to forget it. History is never confined within a contour, yet it is always anchored to one. The saga of people’s struggles, failures and triumphs intertwined with their aspiration, passion and toil creates the warp and woof in the fabric of human life. And, when that land happens to be India, the distinctiveness of such a warp and woof becomes a force to reckon with. Indeed, with both its intrinsic plurality and connectedness, has come a long way from its ‘tryst with destiny’. Today, it has become a melting pot of the world’s cultures and languages. With more than 120 major languages, it is a wonder how it still continues to be a single Nation. The answer may lie in the linguistic freedom it enjoys in every stratum of its life. Research reveals that language has a deep connection with biodiversity. The more diverse the environment; the greater the possibility for more languages to evolve. The North-Eastern part of India and Andaman Nicobar Islands, having the largest forest cover, are home to varied languages and dialects. This brings us straight to an incontrovertible fact that no matter how cozy we feel being in our comfort zones of intolerance, nature abhors uniformity. Different languages have the same claim to the land, even for the fringe populace. This is the dictum of nature which we must obey or perish forever. To this Swami Vivekananda brings our attention in no uncertain terms, ‘Unity is before creation, diversity is creation. Now if this diversity stops, creation will be destroyed. So long as any species is vigorous and active, it must throw out varieties. When it ceases or is stopped from breeding varieties, it dies’. It is a warning and a deliverance. The passion for our language and the longing for the country should not be at the cost of the innate heterogeneity that nature wants us to enjoy. We may be at crossroads, but we have the stars to guide us – the elders, the scriptures and the way under our feet.
This diversity is the fragrance after the rain. When all the scum is washed away, the pristine water flows. When the barriers are shattered by thunder, we roam free.
Rain always rejuvenates. Let it rain, let the petrichor waft through the valley.


Back to Spring 2022

Bizarre & Beautiful

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” – Plato.

Perhaps nothing has been more enigmatic in history than beauty. It has created and destroyed empires. Its charm allured scientists to explore new vistas. Art has crowned it as the goal to strive for and philosophy cringes if it loses this. Yet, we hardly know why a particular array of lines, shapes, colours or abstract ideas is more appealing to us than others. Why an ugly face suddenly becomes divine to us? For of most human history, these questions have been answered with logic and speculation, but in the last few decades, science steadily advanced to provide us with a better understanding; even a new branch called neuroaesthetics has emerged. It has paved the way to appreciate the underpinnings of beauty.
Most people never stop to think about why they find something beautiful. Because it is something, they just know. Maybe we find beauty in the same places, but do we process beauty in the same way even if we disagree? These things are pretty intuitive. But scientists have been working to see if there’s a universal way that humans minds analyse beauty. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but researchers have discovered that our brains all behave similarly when beholding. They found a pattern in certain parts of the brain that become more active when perceiving something beautiful. Having said this, we must admit that perceiving beauty is an intricate affair. Scientists may claim to have deciphered the mystery, but it hardly can explain the whole of it. While studying the response and the stimulus, we completely miss out on our mind, which tinges on an everyday experience. Sometimes a grotesque figure excites us; again, sometimes, we find an otherwise beautiful face insipid. This is quite bizarre. We know, there is more to the subject than breaking emotions into neurochemical signals or simply studying encephalograms.
What is the attraction? Why does an ugly face look charming, an old shabby street alluring, or the smell of grandpa’s books – torn and shattered, other-worldly? We who appreciate the beauty in some apparently outlandish things take, as it were, the idea of beauty, which is in our minds, and project it on those; and what we see and worship is not those objects but our ideals. These objects are only suggestions, and on that, we throw our ideals and cover it, and it becomes deified.
As Swami Vivekananda, points out, “All that we see, we project out of our own minds. A grain of sand gets washed into the shell of an oyster and irritates it. The irritation produces a secretion in the oyster, which covers the grain of sand and the beautiful pearl is the result…. The wicked see this world as a perfect hell, and the good as a perfect heaven. Lovers see this world as full of love, and haters as full of hatred; fighters see nothing but strife, and the peaceful nothing but peace.”
Appreciation of beauty is a journey. We grow with our experiences and finally reach the source from where all beauty springs.

Back to Autumn 2021

Catch 22

Catch 22
All they kept saying was ‘Catch-22, Catch-22.’
“Didn’t they show it to you?” Yossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. “Didn’t you even make them read it?
“They don’t have to show us Catch-22,” the old woman answered. “The law says they don’t have to.” “What law says they don’t have to?” “Catch-22.”
If you are wondering what under the sun we are blabbering about, here it is.
Published in 1961, in the backdrop of World War II, Catch 22 is a satirical war novel by Joseph Heller. It was often conceived as one of the most impactful novels of twentieth century. It stripped open governmental loopholes that squeezed people to the last drops to meet its ends. Heller’s novel follows the exploits of a bombardier, and in doing so throws a light on the relentless and circular bureaucracy of war and wartime governments. The term is introduced to describe the apparent loophole that prevents a pilot from asking for a mental evaluation to determine if he’s fit to fly. A pilot who wants to be grounded, being unnerved by the inhumane war situation, finds himself in a catch. To ask for approval of his insanity is to establish his sanity. The conundrum continues.
Catch-22 appears several times in the novel, always invoked to explain a contradiction or an inescapable paradox caused by the rule itself. It has filtered into general English to refer to a dilemma, a confusing situation, or a problem in which the problem itself denies the solution.
It is not only in the surreal world of an author’s randomly firing neurons but also in everyday life that we find ourselves in such situations. Finding a solution is to embrace the problem, where the compulsion is presented as an option.
What do we do then, at an individual and a collective level?
While it is not under the purview of this discussion to provide solutions to individual ethical dilemmas, we can search for a general principle or a basis, sticking to which we, as individuals and society, can escape such situations.
Swami Vivekananda, gives the seed of the solution in just two words. Eternal self-abnegation. He adds, “Ethics always says, “Not I, but thou.” Its motto is, “Not self, but non-self.” The vain ideas of individualism, to which man clings when he is trying to find that Infinite Power or that Infinite Pleasure through the senses, have to be given up — say the laws of ethics. You have to put yourself last, and others before you. The senses say, “Myself first.” Ethics says, “I must hold myself last.” Thus, all codes of ethics are based upon this renunciation; destruction, not construction, of the individual on the material plane. That Infinite will never find expression upon the material plane, nor is it possible or thinkable.”
‘Good of the many, welfare of the many’ – is not mere rhetoric. A certain body part cannot be healthy, if other parts are not. When we get to the bigger picture of the world, we understand unselfishness is key to our survival, and learn to see the selfish actions as just aberrations.
From a collective perspective too – be it of any level of the hierarchy – we begin to appreciate what Kant had in one of his Categorical Imperatives, “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”
‘Reich de Zwecke’ or the Kingdom of Ends, where everybody prioritizes others and treats them as ends in themselves, may sound elusive but remains a beacon to strive for. It can be a direction-point of our behaviour, for it is capable of giving order and integrity.

Back to Spring 2021