Vijayadasami 2018 – A True Opportunity for Vidya Aarambam

By Suchitra Sairam

I look forward to Vijayadasami every year. It’s the day to initiate into learning (vidya aarambam) or start other important endeavors – and to recommit ourselves to the path of learning, knowledge and wisdom. This is traditionally for study of the arts and book knowledge – what about our cultural and societal knowledge and understanding?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but ever more so in recent weeks and months with the tenor of discourse in the United States in general, with all of the awful stories that have come forward with #metoo, and with the tone deaf responses from many that should be willing to listen.

What if we all take this Vijayadasami day with a different tack – to recommit ourselves to learning by opening our eyes to what is truly around us, listening to the voices that are trying to be heard, and understanding the issues that face us today?

This includes opening our eyes to the real issues of #metoo, #metooindia, #carnaticmetoo and the other forms this is taking.

This includes actually LISTENING to what is being said and what is going not, not looking to respond to or immediately dispel what is being said because you don’t agree with the messenger or the message.

This includes opening our eyes to the MANY forms of #privilege, not just racial or gender or financial – and using whatever privilege we may have in a constructive way to start breaking this down.

This includes learning from what was “accepted” in the past as societal norms but is it just not right, and changing our behavior going forward.

This includes using our moral compass when it comes to how we treat other human beings, not in how we shape political policy or opinions.

This includes remembering that we should be informed – about all sides, not just the one we identify with or feel sympathy or compassion toward.

I usually spend my Vijayadasami day thinking about the past, all of my teachers and other whom I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths with during my life who have taught me about the arts, book knowledge and facilitated spiritual growth, and how these things have given me a foundation for the future. I started my day this way, and will finish it this way with a celebration of arts and learning with all of my students at Kala Vandanam. But I spend much of Vijayadasami 2018 thinking about making this a new beginning for other sorts of knowledge – to help me grow into being a better member of society.

I look forward to LISTENING to you on what this day means to you.