Photograph of Anil Chawla


Author - Anil Chawla

My article Understanding Sukh attracted some interesting comments. I reproduce here all the comments received. My reply, if any, is given below the comment.

With Best Wishes and Regards,

Anil Chawla

18 April 2008

From: Prachi Singh

Beautiful article. It's very hard to incorporate it in life though when you are surrounded by individualistic people who expect you to either soar above or be crushed down. In trying to be mild, you inevitably invite them to crush you down. I have no idea if there exists a balance or a way out of it while living amongst these this society (USA).


From: Prof. Deepak Khemani

Dear Anil

Last year BBC had done a series called "Happiness" in which they had also observed that happiness does not lie in consumerism but in having friends etcetra. They had observed that Britain was much happier 50 years ago than it is now, even though now they are richer. Another case study they did was of Bhutan, a country that vigorously opposes consumer behaviour (coca-cola) and where ministers talk of a "happiness index".

This notion of happiness perhaps applies to our students as well. They are cocooned in their rooms glued to the machine, and they definitely seem strained. Perhaps it is also the effect of the rigors of coaching in their teens. The less they work the less they seem to be happy. They also seem to be very fragile, which a happy person would not be.

I remember a conversation I was having during my student days (after you had graduated) where Phater (not ford - from your hostel whom you don't remember) was berating guys who go on a hike carrying a chicken dish, all along chanting how they will go there and eat the chicken and Enjoy. A bit too focussed on the meal and less on the hike.


Prof. Deepak Khemani teaches at IIT Madras. He was my classmate at IIT Bombay.

From: Ashish Pande

Dear Anil,

Gud write up with very practical examples ,something we have been taught as a kid by our grandparents and parents.

In tune with ur article I would like u to advise members of Samarth Bharat to read Robin Sharma's The Monk who.......... & Leadership Wisdom to understand and enjoy every moment of life.

Can u tell me where is Mr Kelkar today and what is he doing?



From: Devdutt Modak

Dear Anilji,

Through the reading of your article on Sukh and Dukh for the best part, I kept nodding in synch.

One key item of disagreement bears noting however. Richard Bach in his book Jonathan Livingston Seagull is probably the first Western philosopher to recognize (without realizing it to be so maybe) the Hindu concepts of janam and maran as akin to graduating from one school to another (the body is but a cloth for the soul, and we must change clothing as it gets dirty or unfit for wearing), the sukh of learning and growing and helping others to grow as he tries even in his first avatar and finally achieves in the last recorded in the book viz. Fletcher Lynd Seagull, etc. It is not in the least "individualistic" but wholly holistic. Do read the book again and I;m sure you'll agree and recast your opinion.


D B (Sunil) Modak

From: Prof. JS Rao


It is very interesting to read your thoughts. Nice article. However, I have the following comments.

Sukh in my opinion is in one's mind and therefore has to be essentially individualistic, I. What is good or bad, society, family ... they are values that everybody should pursue that would enrich all of us. This need not be sukh for some people; It is bad to go to prostitutes - however, those who go for this are in their own way having sukh. That is a bad thing definitely, all of us agree - but the facts are facts.

Essentially we are all animals, our ancestors are probably the greatest living beings compared to us - their discovery or invention of society, marraige, family ... and finding an acceptable way of imposing them through Ramayan or Bible- they cannot be beaten by scientific or industrial revolutions. Societal systems are percusors for the recent scientific thinkings.

In my way of thinking - sukh lies in pursuing what one likes most. Performing the duties one percieves, whether praying God through rituals meticulously or pursuing scientific work or making money through business - I think they all underlie the meaning of sukh. If we cant achieve our perceptions, it will form dukh. From a society point of view, one who follows good values (can be cleaning streets properly - one which is missing in our country) in perceiving their sukh, are what we need for maintaining values.

I hope I tried to understand your article and provide some food for thought.

I am still enjoying doing full time work as a Chief Science Officer for Altair Engineering in Bangalore since my retirement from IIT Delhi in 2000.

Best Wishes


Dear Prof. Rao,

Great to hear from you after such a long time.

In the Indian tradition, as opposed to the dialectical tradition of Greeks, we do not indulge in debates where one tries to put the other one down. Both sides utter their views and stop at that - no attempt to prove one right or the other wrong. Since we believe that truth may lie somewhere in between and both must let the idea sink in.

Hence, I shall not argue against what you have said. I shall put up your views as well as many others I have received on the website. Let the readers decide.

Just as a footnote to explain my viewpoint, I shall like to add that the central theme of my article is that what one feels depends on the cultural archetype (dev or danav / individualistic or holistic) one belongs to. Traditionally, societies encouraged attitudes that were dev. However, in the past century, danav attitudes have been glorified. We need to set this right.

I am glad to know that you are still working actively and contributing to the technical development of this country.

Thanks & Regards,


From: Nitin Borwankar

Hi Anil,

Some feedback on the article. No this is not a debate on the content, just mostly comments on the form and structure of the writing and a single comment about the content.

Basically I felt the article in two parts. The first part which was really about what is 'sukh' This part is actually quite interesting and draws the reader in especially with your personal experiences with people which make it alive. The second part seems like a mandatory add on about dev vs danav. While this duality in itself is interesting the first time we read it - in this article it seems tired for two reasons a) we have read this before in other writings from you so this is where the eyes glaze over, the mind goes 'blah blah blah - whatever...' b) it is in a voice that does not have any personal experiences. If instead you were to add personal experiences of how sukh relates to dev/danav then there would be continuity as well as aliveness. As it stands it comes across as a a switch in mid article to a pontificatory voice where where you feel compelled to somehow talk about dev vs danav and in reality lose the reader and end up talking to yourself, possibly.

So purely from an editorial point of view the points you are trying to make will be far more effective if you lose the latter half of the article and not make it about two different subjects which seem - at least in this rendering - completely unrelated in style and content. That was the editorial feedback.

As far as your point about all religions talking about the same things - I would have to say that *in principle* all religions are supposed to talk about all these 'good things' but *in practice *organized religion has become a mouthpiece of the politicians and talk more about divisiveness and hate and destruction of non-believers rather than about all these 'good things' they are supposed to talk about. If you really got to the core of these religions they are about individuals who had very very powerful internal experiences which had a transformative experience on them and people around them and the early stages of any religion is sbout direct communication of these experiences to people around these individuals. These individuals all talked about direct experience of the divine and not about going to a church or temple or of symbols and idols and gods. This is the mystical approach to the divine and it is true to say that *at the core all mystics talk about the same experience and about unity of all creation. *It is the religio-political complex that is organized religion today which has little to do with the original mystical experience of the founders. From there springs Iraq, Israel, Babri-Masjid, ....

Organized religions whose leaders don't have personal direct experiences of what they talk and do not share these experiences with everyone unconditionally, become more interested in power that the structure gives them - therein lies the fall and perhaps you may find ample material here for your dev/danav duality analysis.


Nitin Borwankar was my batchmate and hostelmate at IIT Bombay.

Dear Nitin,

Thanks for your excellent feedback.

Regarding your editorial comment, I am reminded of an incident about a kid. Mother of the kid wanted to feed him some nuts that he did not want to eat. So, she coated the nuts with some sweet chocolate and gave the chocolate covered nuts to the kid. But, the kid was smart like you. So he licked the chocolate and threw away the nuts. Later he complained to the mother that she should give him the chocolate and nuts in separate bowls.

In fact, in this article I first wrote the three-four paras about dev-danav and later built the whole article around them. I have this unenviable job as a philosopher to peddle my philosophy in a form that people find palatable. Your editorial comments tell me that I should create a better mix of nuts and sugary chocolate. Thanks for pointing it out!

Regarding your comments about organized religion, I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I am vehemently opposed to this concept of one-book-one-prophet religion. But let us not discuss it here.

With best wishes and regards,


For the original article Understanding Sukh, Please click here.

Please write to me your comments about the above discussion.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.

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