Mythology of Identity

TED, Videos 16 Comments

I was invited by the American School in Mumbai (Bandra Kurla Complex) to talk to their students at the TEDx conference. I chose the topic of Mythology of Identity for two reason. To help the children understand how cultures are constructed. And to help them appreciate the root of conflict is emotion, not logic. It was an interesting talk. The children, I felt, were surprised by the content – and they enjoyed the pictures. The idea was to make an apparently complex idea very simple. I am usually uncomfortable talking to children. But over the years, as my understanding of the subject has grown, so has my confidence talking to children. I think there is a link between the two. The better you understand a subject, the simple it becomes, hence can be presented to adults and kids with ease. Hope you enjoy the talk.

  • Vijay

    awesome talk sir.. simple yet very powerful.this speaks a lot about your versatility …distinct styles in both the ted conferences yet the message was conveyed emphatically …mind blowing!!!awesome..

    regards,
    vijay

  • Chirag Chauhan

    Can a belief can do miracle for a patient who is suffering from disease…. And if yes how?

    • disease is physical, pain is physical, suffering is emotional and influenced by belief

      • Dee

        Placebo effects are recognized to have the same effects as the drugs … placebo are sugar-coated pills with no proven effects on humans … Scientists have identified the role of mind and beliefs behind this mysterious cure in a few studies …

  • arush

    i love this line….
    varuna has but a thousand eyes,
    Indra a hundred,
    you and I, only two

  • mad_bob

    As usual very thought provoking. I especially valued the quote regarding cultural narratives. “The similarities display our humanity. The differences our identity.” Thank you Devdutt Ji.

  • Ishwar

    Simply Splendid!

  • Devdutt, your take on faith and disease is interesting. But the scriptures are full of faith doing the impossible, and I have heard of the faith that people have in shrines. I cannot prove but cannot disprove either. Is it simply the alleviation of suffering , keeping the physical aspect of disease aside, that makes one feel that faith has. Caused healing?

    • Belief is a very powerful placebo. It also reduces stress. How does it matter to the cured where the cure came from, belief or science?

  • vijay subramaniyam

    Hi devdutt,

    I have a couple of questions related to the above topic on beliefs..Request your thoughts on the following.

    1) Regarding the concept of BOON/Wish granting.

    What according to you is a boon .from mythology it seems there are some individuals after doing severe penance or expressing immense faith in the supreme soul to get some super natural ability/a leeway from the rules or some other favors. would like to know your thoughts on this.

    2) Regarding the influence of Astrology in decision making.

    it seems to me in both Mahabharata and Ramayana crucial decisions are taken purely based on the facts available at that current moment .Even Vysa does not dwell about the planetary positions influencing the various occurrence of events. Ex:He does not say Pandavas going to exile due to some unfavorable planetary position.

    But in many of the derived scriptures, There seems to be over dependence of astrology or prominence been given to it.
    ex: Savitri marrying to satyavan. Though there were many social and economic differences between them a prime factor was satyavan death after marriage. a astrological influence in decision making. Rather in the story of nala damayanti a set tough times attributed to astrology.

    I am not questioning the merit of astrology but wanted to know was there was a major shift in the beliefs or it was the authors interpretation through the eyes of astrology which influenced later decision making. eg: according to kamba ramyan in tamil,ravana committed the act of foolishness because of a unfavorable position of Saturn.(though some say Saturn was a captive in ravan courts and hanuman released him)

    Was it done to bring in a fear amongst people or a sense of contemplation or an exit door for failure ?

  • JAYASHANKARAN

    NAMASKAR DEV SAAB
    GREAT WORK !
    THE TOPIC COVERED IS NOVEL AND BOLD WITH LATERAL THINKING SO AS TO GIVE FRESH INSIGHTS TO THE BUDDING YOUNGSTERS.
    I APPRECIATE THE WAY IN WHICH YOU HAVE TAKEN UP THE RESPONSIBILITY TO LET THE STUDENTS APPRECIATE THE EVOLUTION OF MYTHOLOGY, CULTURE AND THE GENERAL ETHOS. WHILE TOUCHING UPON THE IDEA THAT HUMAN BEINGS CONTINUE TO HAVE 99% ANIMAL INSTINCT AND ONLY1% THINKING,IT APPEARS TO BE A BIT SWEEPING STATEMENT AND HIGHLY GENERALISED. TO SAY THAT BY YOU, YOU SHOULD HAVE MORE THAN 1% RATIONALITY AND LESS OF ANIMAL INSTINCT. ALL GREAT THINKERS AND GREAT PHILOSOPHERS AND MOTHERS IN GENERAL ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE MORE COMPASSIONATE AND HUMANE BY NATURE.
    THANKS. AS DOCTOR PLEASE CONTINUE TO ILLUMINATE THE YOUNGER GENERATION WITH SOUND PRESCRIPTION OF EVERLASTING VALUES. GOD BLESS YOU.

  • visvonata rau valaulicar

    namaskar Devsaab,

    What is the significance of different ashoucha(mourning) periods prescribed in Dharmasindhu for different generations in a family, according to their rank? This period is of 10 days upto seventh rank beyond which it gets reduced to 3 days. If in a joint family a father(7th rank generation) and his son(8th rank generation) stay together does it make sense that in the same household, the son becomes absolved of asoucha after 3 days while the father is bound to observe 10 days period of mourning.

    • Not really….but these rules are not strictly adhered to…generally the whole family who stay in the house of the dead person are rendered impure for a finite number of days (7 in some cases, 10 or 13 in others)…..staying in the same house is critical as is biological proximity (stricter rule for the son of the dead man than grandson)

  • G

    Why say that emotion and not logic causes war? The hostile emotion arises when one’s logic of self-identity is threatened. The emotion would not be mobilized in this way if the story, the logic of the story, was not clung to for security.

    Although I can see how animal territorial combative instincts are mobilized during these conflicts, I think that two emotionless computers at cross-purposes, with competing logical frameworks, would still duke it out ruthlessly.

    If the two human (or computer) factions attained wisdom, then they would transcend their narrow logical framework.

  • Hari Prasad

    Dear Mr Devdutt,
    I am referring to this lecture of yours in particular delivered at American School in Mumbai.

    As you are addressing a gathering of school children. But ur lecture seems too deep and vague..I did not find it focussed towards giving a simple and powerful message to young minds.

    I have seen ur episode of business sutra on depiction of the leadership in the form of Vishnu..it’s simple but Powerful. Your explanation of Leadership with “Krishna-Sudama-Arjuna.-story” It’s V. Simple and powerful..

    I believe u are great story teller.. Can explain mythology with modern day relevance excellently. Seeing ur your various lectures I find some times, it is not made for the target audience..

    I wish u had made this lecture more targeted for young minds n is precise and focused on how they can think out of the box with few examples from mythology which can transform or revolutionize their thought process..

    One needs to be very thoughtful while addressing children in particular.. Just a suggestion pl…

  • Dee

    Dear Dr Patnaik

    Great talk … I had just completed my research on aggression in animals and found your perspective on domestication as a prime act of culture extremely interesting … Similar to how Ayn Rand defends Ellsworth Toohey’s actions. I do agree with you that the world assumes of thwarting fear by way of culture, religion, etc … Beyond the realms of imagination, fight over polarized I/them attitude and the countless of stories of how one can be domesticated, I guess, all species have attempted attenuating fears (slightly) by way of familiarization … successfully (although I do agree that such a population of people are a minority). Thanks for such a refreshing perspective … Enjoyed the subtle sarcasm that made the undercurrent … Thanks for entertaining us … Indeed, you are a great story teller …

    Warm regards
    Deepa.