There is a very simple story that is usually related to yoga students which has always evoked images of the multiple nature of Indian traditions in my mind.
The story goes, that Goddess Parvathi went to Lord Parameswara and asked him "How many asanas are in existence,?" and the Lord answered, "As many as there are people."
In an Illuminating dialogue with a foreigner, who was a practicing Christian, one of the sanyasis in Kashi spoke thus, when asked about the numerous gods and goddesses in the cosmology of India. "We believe in the one absolute Brahman, we know that the resting place must be only one. But, each of us enjoys the path of loving and offering our respects to one form of the divine, one which is close to our heart." Who is to say which is the best form?
And thus, we have a culture, and an ethos replete with the representation of beauty and order in myriad forms, and speaking of multiple things. Into this adventurous heterogenous nature (or chaotic madness as the case may be), we find the introduction of monogamous, fundamentalistic rules and regulations. We find an alarming trend in the media which takes pride in offering what it calls "only solutions", "best sample", "We have all the answers." etc. which intensify social fragmentation through fundementalistic thought.
Perhaps all this insistance on only "one" way is a result of decades of Eurocentric influences. But, the real damage seems to be fairly deep seated. I have come across statements from Vaastu Pundits who promise absolute punishment for transgressing rules that are 'absolutely final.' This is a very disheartening trend, since my decade-long training has given me a totally different and more humanistic world view.
There was an instance of a house wife who was told that her failure to shift a door would result in the death of her husband. An "expert" recommended artificial land slope for a factory. I had to help in changing this dictate since the water table was being affected negatively.
The thought which concerns me at this point is not so much the blatant opportunism of the practioners (Hospitals too are trading on man's fear of the unknown, so it is part of the market forces), as the credulity of a people who have become bereft of the multiple anchors of perceptions; which were the hallmark of the Indian phyche (perhaps even the oriental).
A few years ago, when I was still reacting to the "ethnic" movement, I felt deeply disturbed by the misuse of craftsmen for elitist urbanite needs. But, today I see this in a different light. I can now relate to this movement with greater compassion and understand the struggle of a people who have lost their anchors with the past.
In juxtaposing the old in frequently absurd relationships with the new I can now see the clumsy attempt of a whole new generation of Indians who have lost their way and are yet incapable of giving up old forms.
In possessing the beauty of a piece of art, am I automatically transformed? In picking them up and placing them in a designer home am I the creator of beauty?
Perhaps the whole movement needs to be re-examined, Neither the copying of the old, nor the reuse of it in a new context needs to be seen as an act of sacrilege. For me this reorientation has been like a benediction.. It is only after taking this step that I can hope to look at design in a different light.
Once many years ago, I was privileged to listen to J Krishhamurthy in one of his pensive dialogues. A questioner had asked him if it was possible to work very hard and transform the psyche, and Krishnamurthy said "The mind or the consciousness is like a room. You can only keep it clean, orderly and simple. But, you cannot force the change of the consciousness. By keeping all the windows open perhaps, the wind will blow through."
Today, I have come to the threshold where I am conscious of a different relationship between the past and the present within my own psyche. This change can be seen reflected in my design too.
From a deep understanding of my own inner self, from a response to the natural environment around me, and from a serious examination of the traditional bodies of knowledge and wisdom. I have come to understand the anchors of design.
To me design, beauty and art can be defined thus: The truly beautiful design or art form is that which is capable of emptying itself of past meanings and memories again and again and live on through changing contexts adapting itself to new interpretations. This emptiness and this adaptability, I call design.
This art is and always will be the right of every individual to create and fashion for himself or herself.