This is a guest blog by Jayant Kalawar.Jayant Kalawar is a corporate management consultant with over 35 years experience, who has increasingly been interested in finding ways to blend traditional knowledge systems with modern knowledge systems. He is the author of The Advaita Life Practice . He acts as an advisor to Mythri SpeaksTrust.
On the question of how we need to move forward and deal with ancient cultural practices around menstruation, Jayant Kalawar has the following thoughts to share:
1. Traditional knowledge gives us access to certain core principles of what drives and connects our lives with the universe around us. these principles tell us that there are subtle energies which are at play and each one of us in on this grid, so to speak. These insights were developed over thousands of years by women and men in our traditions and recorded both orally and in texts.
2. Certain methods were developed to reflect these core insights into cultural practices so that people could be taught to go about their lives and navigate more easily on this interconnected subtle energy grid. In modern terminology you could call the core insights basic science and the cultural practices that evolved as applied science or technology (just as for example you have the basic science of the physics of what happens to electrons in a semi-conductor, which is less than a particle of sand – upon which core insight a whole range of technology was built beginning with transistor radios to now smart phones for use in better / easier communications among people over the last 60 years).
3. Over time, the core insights do not change, but the technology being applied can and does become obsolete. Even the cell phones of a few years ago are now going obsolete with emergence of smartphones and so forth. In the same way the cultural practices around menstrual cycles which were developed over time may have become obsolete. That does not mean the core insights / principles about energy flows experienced in menstrual cycles have become obsolete. They can and should be used to develop cultural practices that can adapt and are useful to today.
4. Thus many of the cultural practices which were designed for a different time, when for example agriculture in isolated rural subsistence communities where joint families were most prevalent, have become obsolete in the modern industrial and increasingly telecomm / internet driven economy, where individuals (this is true in the USA now – it will likely get to India in two generations), or nuclear families (increasingly true of India now), are becoming the basic social unit.
5. Given that there has been a break in the traditional Indian knowledge systems over the last at least few hundred years, there is a lack of intellectual resource required to develop new technology based on the core insights on energy flows in the menstrual cycles (an example is Guruji from Devipuram, an ex nuclear physicist from TIFR who understands science and tradition) that should be the broader project to undertake in India: which would drive the renaissance in India, just the way Europe came out of its dark ages through its renaissance in the arts and science beginning about the 16th century.
6. To those who have questions regarding continuation of traditional menstrual practices, I will say this:
– be open to challenging the technology that may be obsolete in the cultural practices, while at the same time insisting on maintaining the use of the core insights, the basic science (you cannot have a better smartphone without understanding how the electron works in a semi-conductor particle of sand, even if you are ready and already have thrown out your transistor radio – similarly you cannot reject the core insights of subtle energy flows in the menstrual cycles).
– this challenging of what may be current obsolete practices should be done carefully in conversation with the people who are practising it, talking to them about the core insights, helping them have conversations within their own communities on how to evolve their current cultural practices by once again using the core insights but now in the modern context. In effect they, the practising communities, have to do it themselves – and questions about continuing these practices give an opening to begin the process.
7. This way we will begin to bring the traditional knowledge systems into play along side the modern knowledge systems.