Dhruv Chhatralia: Reintroducing Indian Spirituality

Sunetra Senior Thursday 23rd August 2018 07:42 EDT

This May, British Parliament celebrated leading orator and lawyer, Dhruv’s, 300th talk on the powerful teachings of Hinduism. The young, globally connected speaker became the first to give a talk on the life of ShreeKrushna as described in the Shrimad Bhagavat in this prestigious setting. This is undoubtedly because of the beautifully unique and practical way Dhruv unfolds the great spiritual tradition of India.

A dedicated practitioner of yoga, the young spokesperson has talked on the contemporary significance of Hinduism at such institutions as the British Army, Ministry of Defence, Metropolitan Police and BBC Radio. He has also written extensively on India’s great spiritual heritage, including 21 books and a chapter in ‘A Living Bridge: the UK – India Diaspora and the Rise of the Millennials.’ Dhruv believes that the time is now for Indian communities spanning the world to reclaim their cultural value against the backdrop of a materialist West: “our diaspora can play an important role in reviving the spiritual legacy of India. We are doing well economically and politically, but must also champion the timeless wisdom of our nation.” As India’s denizens increasingly inhabit positions of power, including the country being a strong international influence, Dhruv identifies an opportunity to escape the capitalist and socialist forces that once dictated the East.
“History, largely a result of the imperial west and middle east, has brought wars and environmental degradation. I feel India has an order that’s different to offer the world. In the face of violence and greed, our tradition brings good forces such as yoga, ayurveda, ahimsa, and a holistic spirituality. We can think of monetary strength, but the 21st Century can be India’s for different reasons.” He continued: “when you grow up in the West, there is this sense of people wanting what they cannot have: contentment and inner bliss. Western systems have not worked because they are based on exploitation and defining people according to their wealth. Indians used to live blissful lives that focused more on the inner landscape. We may not now have access to material comforts but we have preserved that spiritual life.” Dhruv gently elaborated on an Indian social essence that encourages reflection by way of an ideological alternative: “India has a concept called Dharma, which predates the time of religious labels, and is concerned with natural law. It focuses on the wellbeing of all creatures in the world and respect for the environment that preserves them. In ancient India upon waking up first thing in the morning, people would say a prayer apologising to the Mother Earth for stepping on her. The whole culture was based on not taking more than what we give to the world. Everything in the universe can have a Dharma, from animals and human beings to the smaller units such as atoms. Such spirituality works on the mind with such depth and the Indian diaspora can vocalise and facilitate that. The concept transcends the notion of left or right-wing politics. For ancient Indian rulers, the likes and needs of people came before a given political party leaning.” And indeed, as it fascinatingly turns out, “the western idea of the self is very tied to the body. The belief is that when it goes away the person goes away. But the person remains despite the body aging. We are neither the body nor the mind, which is also an accumulation of impressions. We have a higher calling – the soul. As humans we are constantly evolving. For example, we are more intelligent than our ancestors, the animals. I believe there is also a future for superhumans wherein we develop beyond a material intelligence to a conscious awareness.” This would certainly stoke more action in saving the planet: a necessity if we are to preserve the human race. “It is worth noting too,” Dhruv added, “there was a notion of evolution in Indian culture before Darwin. If you look at the 10 incarnations of Vishnu, he went from a fish to a tortoise through a series of more complex animals to dwarf to man to a meditative man.” So, the spiritual concept of striving to do better is intertwined with its biological equivalent. Thus, Dhruv doesn’t just empower an entire culture, but also galvanises an urgent way of looking at the world. By approaching spirituality universally, he unearths a channel that touches everyone. Spirituality naturally appears cohesive with applied science.

You emphasise the power of yoga. Please elaborate?
In the West, people have looked up in terms of their wellbeing. But when you are looking up then you are imagining – seeing what you want to. The discrepancy in such ideologies results in wars and conflicts. People in the West then looked externally for their growth, building railways, factories etc. and they ruined our environment. Yoga and mediation help you look inwards rather than above or externally. By meditating on the breath you can trace where your identification with the body begins. People think Yoga simply about physical postures but the term Yoga actually means: ‘union’. We can turn the senses and the mind inwards and experience that we are the soul. This is the different approach of eastern spirituality. Only when you focus your attention inwards do you see the unity between yourself, the cosmos and the environment. For example it has been proven that putting one’s bare feet on the earth helps absorb electrons which are good for the body.

A study on amnesiac patients showed them choosing the same food and points of view despite a lost memory. There was still a distinct sense of self.
Yes memory is preserved inside the cells of the body which forms a part of the mind. The five senses are always in the present moment. For example, you can only see what is going on now. But the mind can see the past, present and the future. When we have control over our senses, we can develop our mind to even tell what’s happening in the future. It’s about purifying the mind and redirecting the senses inwards. When a glass lamp is cleaned then the flame inside reveals itself. In the same way if you clean the impressions of the mind, the knowledge of one’ self reveals itself.

Has that clarity helped you through your prolific career, from your writing numerous books and a successful legal career?
 Absolutely. There is a big difference between confidence and consciousness. You can have the confidence to cross the road, but you need the consciousness to do it safely. Self-realisation, a result of the practice of Yoga, reveals to you what your purpose is in life. If a ship changes direction just by one degree, it would end up somewhere entirely different. Therefore we should learn about who we are and what our purpose is. People think of concentration as focusing on one point at one time but through yoga you can develop your concentration on many points at one time. Therefore I rarely leave work with e-mails in my inbox unanswered. By understanding my connection with other human beings, I work in a cohesive manner with other lawyers on negotiations and am compassionate with junior staff. As part of a global law firm, I get to work with people all over the world and, rather than making superficial connections, I can connect with them at a deeper level. I am able to talk to them about Indian culture and history and like learning about theirs. India has a lot to offer well beyond Bollywood and cricket.

Finally, how does exploring cultural heritage encourage community cohesion?
India has never invaded another country in its entire history. We’ve welcomed Zoroastrians who fled from Persia to Gujarat, Jews fleeing persecution from the Romans, and even the Dalai Lama from Tibet to whom we gave sanctuary. We’ve always respected pluralism and the freedom of thought which makes us unique.

The 21st Century can be India’s for different reasons

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