Foresight - A Clarification

Jan 4 11:10 2010 Uday Gunjikar Print This Article

In another article, I talked about demythologizing Hindu iconography in an attempt to try to get to the core of what the symbols or icons of the culture represent and, thereby, to clarify their original meaning. The concepts I touched upon deserve further elaboration. This is where I attempt to clarify my prior statements.

In a prior blog article,Guest Posting I talked about demythologizing Hindu iconography in an attempt to try to get to the core of what the symbols or icons of the culture represent and, thereby, to clarify their original meaning. This deserves further explanation, so here goes:

My ideas as stated here would probably be considered controversial in the world of Hindu academia, but I'm not going to make any attempt to address any such potential controversy. Also, I'm speaking pretty much as a layman in the field of cultural anthropology, so I make no claims to expertise or qualifications in the field-I'm only stating my ideas as I see them purely from a layman's perspective.

Basically, looking back at the last several centuries of Hindu culture, I think that the original sense of what the iconography and mythology represented has been lost, perhaps even distorted and corrupted, by thousands of years of cultural aggregation and, possibly, miscommunication. So icons representing certain ideas originally have very possibly been distorted over time to represent something completely different thousands of years later. Myths, originally conveyed via an archaic oral tradition, were probably only first written down several centuries following their original composition, so that the original stories constituting the myths were probably distorted over time and came to include several additional fables and folklore that were missing from the original work. It would probably be an academic exercise in and of itself to attempt to extract the original mythology from the subsequent add-ons, and I'm not about to take on that enterprise given my own limited expertise in the field!

However, the point I made in the prior article was about the Hindu icon of the "third eye" and what it came to represent over time as opposed to my interpretation of what it probably signified originally. The point I made was that in present-day Hindu philosophy, the "third eye" represents clairvoyance or psychic abilities or the mind-expanding effect of hallucinogenic substances and narcotics. However, I think that this meaning is a corruption of what it probably originally signified, way back in the beginning of Vedic Indian history.

"Reverse-engineering" backwards to what might originally have been the Vedic culture in whose milieu the war of Kurukshetra was probably fought and, subsequently, recounted in Sanskrit verse, I think that the symbology of the "third eye" and the tilak or mark on the forehead probably represented something closer to simple foresight on the battlefield. One has to keep in mind that the philosophy articulated in the epic poem The Mahabharata was linked with a martial context-a philosophy of the battlefield, in which the mentor tries to motivate his pupil into war. So it seems to me to make sense that the iconography of the "third eye" should fit into this context-rather than referring to mysticism or clairvoyance, as a superficial reading might suggest, it seems to make more sense to me that it refers to the ability to foresee or anticipate the enemy's moves on the battlefield and react accordingly, as a product of years of intensive skill and training.

Think of a Grandmaster chess player and their ability almost to read their opponent's mind and foresee their moves several moves in advance, strategizing their own game accordingly. Or think of the expert swordsman or fencer, and their ability to foresee and foreshadow their opponent's moves ahead of time and react almost instantaneously, even preemptively, on occasion. Or think of the highly skilled and experienced matador, and their ability to foresee and anticipate the brutish movements of the bull and react accordingly before zeroing in for the kill. Or think of the highly trained and experienced athlete and their ability to anticipate and out-think their opponent on the field or court. Again, this ability comes from expertise in one's skill and from years of training and experience. It's not really a psychic ability, but, rather, the ability to view circumstances holistically and to respond proactively based on an unconscious extrapolation into the future (I hope that makes sense).

I think that that's closer to what the iconography of the "third eye" probably represented in its original form and it became corrupted over time into representing something quite different, namely clairvoyance or mysticism. However, if one strips away the distortions that have accrued over centuries and returns to original core of the mythology, I think the context reveals the original meaning of the myths and icons much more vividly and clearly. However, I must note, that this is all hypothetical-in no way do I have the academic credentials in the field to back up my statements! All I can say is that such a reading of the myths and icons makes sense to me!

Myths and icons are a fascinating subject in and of themselves, and the puzzle of getting to their originary meanings is a worthy subject of study, because they meant so much to the cultures they sprang from, and continue to mean a lot to the society of the present day. I guess it is a worthwhile effort trying to understand exactly what they represented back when they were originally conceived and how their meaning might have changed or transformed over time.

Horizon Cybermedia, as a part of our ongoing film-making project, attempts to make sense of the mass of cultural icons that have come down to us over the ages from bygone cultures and civilizations. Rather than dismiss them offhand, I think it is a worthwhile effort to try and understand them and the histories associated with them. Meanwhile, do check out our website at for our ongoing film series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar.

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Uday Gunjikar
Uday Gunjikar

Uday Gunjikar is the founder and CEO of Horizon Cybermedia, a new company dedicated to the production and delivery of high quality digital media content. Horizon Cybermedia owns and operates the website, featuring the film series Exploration with Uday Gunjikar. Uday Gunjikar also operates and regularly contributes to the affiliated weblog, Horizon CyberBlog.

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