Scholar offers antidote to virtual violence

He sees wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita that could ease technology-related woes.
Thursday, July 5, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:58 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Science and religion don’t seem to be getting along much these days, at least in the West. From stem-cell research, to evolution, to the role of religion in society, some scientists and churchgoers are finding themselves on opposite sides of the issues.

So it might be surprising to hear that Dr. G. Lakshman, a Canadian physicist and founder of a biotechnology company, proposes that problems created by technology and contemporary society are best resolved by one of the world’s most ancient religious texts, the Bhagavad Gita, or Gita for short.

Love, peace, etc.

Who: MU Cultural Association of India in conjunction with the Center for Religion and the Professions What: “Ancient Wisdom for a Global Crisis — The Bhagavad Gita: Love, Peace and Harmony in the 21st Century,” a free public lecture by Dr. G. Lakshman When: Noon-1:30 p.m. Friday Where: MU’s Tucker Forum in Gannett Hall, Room 85 Why: Lakshman believes the ancient Hindu text has valuable lessons for today, both in resolving personal strife and finding solutions to the global crisis of violence, socioeconomic conflicts and bigotry. Also: Lakshman will take part in devotional activities Saturday and Sunday at Shanthi Mandir, mid-Missouri’s Hindu Temple and Community Center, 2006 Holly Ave, Columbia. Call 814-1286 For more info: Call 882-2770 or visit the Center for the Religion and the Professions Web site

“The Gita gives a tremendous amount of knowledge, a complete picture of the world and our actions from a higher level,” Lakshman said. Lakshman is traveling to Columbia from his home in Saskatoon to give a series of free talks in Columbia this weekend about his interpretation of the Gita. He was invited here to speak by a professional colleague and local admirer, H.R. Chandrasekhar, the chair of MU’s physics department.

“He, like myself, is concerned about issues that are important,” Chandrasekhar said. “We are not experts; we are not here to preach anything. The most important point of the whole thing will be the questions people (in the audience) ask.”

For Lakshman, those issues include global problems of violence, intolerance, materialism and the negative effects of violent videos and video games on the human psyche.

“I want to focus on problems in Canada and the United States related to violence,” Lakshman said, “Violence in schools, violence in society, the insensitive nature of people, the fact that for a small amount of money, people are willing to commit heinous crimes.”

Once an agnostic, Lakshman began reading the Gita 10 years ago after he was asked to speak about the Bhagavad Gita. He initially only tackled two verses for the basis of his presentation but has since become literate in the entire text.

“After the talk, I was amazed at the content and depth of the verses,” Lakshman said. “The Gita is so scientific.”

Lakshman served as a principal research scientist at the Saskatchewan Research Council and founded System Ecotechnologies Inc. at the University of Saskatchewan in 1986. Despite — or perhaps because of — his experience with advanced technologies, Lakshman believes the West’s obsession with virtual violence is psychologically damaging.

“I’ve been reading quite a lot about the effects of modern technology on the human psyche,” Lakshman said. “The videos and video games we are exposed to day-to-day cause sensory overload. They alter the mind’s ability to discriminate between right and wrong.”

According to the Hindu America Foundation, the Gita could be the “most popularly revered” of all Hindu texts. Translated in English as “The Song of the Divine,” the Gita covers many cosmic and philosophical issues dealing with the nature and significance of human life, thought and action. It is thought to have been written sometime between the fifth and second centuries B.C.

“It describes how human behavior is modulated by things in life,” Lakshman said. “My intention is to bring this knowledge out and see how one can use this knowledge to better oneself.”

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