REFLECTIONS ON THE NAME AND THE LOGO
Medha, in Sanksrit, means to “make sacred”. Medha is also that part of the psyche that holds insights and values. Sumedhas is an institution that invites people to invest in processes that enhance insightfulness and the processes of valuing that which is enduring and human.
There is an inspiring story about Sumedhas in the Buddhist tradition. Sumedhas was a man of great wisdom and one who lived in great simplicity. He understood the nature of human beings, their struggles and sorrows deeply. He, therefore, had a profound appreciation of the Buddha. He heard one day that the Buddha of his time would be walking past his village on his final journey across the river of sorrow and Samsara. All the sentient beings whose emancipation he had waited for on this bank of the river would be journeying with the Buddha on his final walk. Sumedhas was overjoyed to hear this. He was very eager to catch a glimpse of the Buddha and convey to him how deeply Sumedhas appreciated the Buddha.
Even as he was walking towards the village, Sumedhas saw the Buddha and his co-travellers walking into the village. Sumedhas hurried along engrossed in the thought of how he could make a worthy offering to Buddha. All too soon, he saw Buddha walk towards him. “Since I am a man with no means, the only offering I can make is to ensure that one step of the Buddha’s journey is soft.” He was very sad that he would not be able to gaze upon Buddha’s compassionate eyes, yet lay himself down on the ground in Buddha’s path.
The step on his back did not come, and when Sumedhas lifted his head to ascertain what was happening, he heard Buddha speak to all gathered there. “All you people gathered here are twice blessed”, he heard Buddha say. “You are indeed fortunate to live at the time of my final journey to carry with me all the sentient beings who are ready to cross the river of sorrow. You are even more fortunate, for you are in the presence of the Buddha of the next Yuga. All of you who I will leave behind will be guided along the way by the Buddha of the next Yuga – The good Sumedhas who lies at my feet.”
So saying, Buddha helped Sumedhas to his feet, blessed him and went forward in his journey. Sumedhas lived through many lives and many transformations before he born as Gautama.
Our logo is a representation of a value we hold very dear. It represents a phenomenon that occurs in arithmetic, geometry, architecture and nature. We believe this phenomenon, somewhat mysterious, holds a truth as yet to be uncovered. However, it does give an inkling and points to another truth which we hold as a value.
The symbol that we have chosen for Sumedhas has as its motif the spiral. The spiral has symbolised the search for one’s spirit in all cultures : the Maoris of New Zealand, the aborigines of Australia, the Greeks, the natives of the Americas. The Kundalini Shakti is also symbolised by the spiral; as is the journey of the “Pilgrim’s Progress”.
The spiral form is generated from the framework of the Golden Section. The progression of rectangles accreted from the root square provides the structure, and the lyrical line of the spiral unfolds in perfect harmony with the Golden Section. The progression of the Golden Section called the “Fibonacci Series” is the pattern in which growth takes place. Leaves growing from the tender sprout follow the numbers in the series – 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… -- in a spirally unfolding form. The nautilus shell is a perfect example of growth through accretion, following the mathematical precision of the spiral.
The symbol for Sumedhas also suggests a bird – the Hamsa, a very popular form in the Indian art, is based on the spiral motif; as is the Chakravaka. These birds symbolise a meditative mind. The Chakravaka is a mythical bird that lives by drinking moon beams; and the Hamsa is a lyrical form given to the movement of Prana.
The conch, symbolised by the spiral is the lyrical form of OM.
“Academe” was the name of the garden in Athens where philosophers would gather to engage on deep dialogue about the nature of the World, and of Man, where they would try and take a step towards discovering that which is true and enduring.
Sumedhas is an offering, a Space, where, through deep dialogue carried on the spirit of friendship one can discover the unfolding of one’s spirit, the unfolding of truth and compassion through this dialogue. Much like the lyrical line of the spiral which unfolds from the seed square, much like a Raga unfolds from the patterns of the Tala.
After covering the philosophical aspect, the logical aspect is presented in discrete form, in the way it has been recognised. Please go through the steps to reach the end.
Take the natural numbers, i.e. 0,1,2,3…. Take only the first tow, i.e. 0 and 1. Put them in a series 0,1 and add them to get the third number of the series, i.e. 1. The series now is 0,1,1. Again add the last two to get the next, i.e. fourth, number on the series, 2. The series has now become 0,1,1,2. Keep on repeating this procedure and you get
As the series progresses, the ratio of the last tow numbers (e.g. 34/55 = 0.618 or 89/144 = 0.618) moves towards 0.618034. Lease note that the reciprocal of this number, i.e. 1/0.618 = 1.618!
This series was created by Fibonacci and is named after him.
Construct a pentagon with all sides equal. Drop a perpendicular from the apex on to the base. Measure the length and compute DC/AF = 0.618034.
Draw a set of rectangles with varying dimensions, i.e. varying size of the sides. Show them to a set of people and ask each of your respondents to point out the one that is most “beautiful” in any sense. Surveys like this have shown that the rectangle which gets chosen most often, is one whose sides are closest to the ratio 0.618034.
Consider the rectangle shown in the figure below. The dimensions of this rectangle have been chosen that the ratio of the width to the length is R. that is W/L = 0.618034, or W = 0.618034L.
If the rectangle is divided into a square and a rectangle, as in the diagram (b) of the same figure, the new rectangle is again one in which the ratio of the dimension is R. The figure below shows the result of the continued division of each successive rectangle into a square and a rectangle, and shows how a circle can be imbibed into the successive squares. In mathematics, this curve is known as “logarithmic spiral”.
Remarkably, enough, it is just the kind of spiral frequently found in the arrangements of seeds in flowers, in the shells of snails and other animals, and in certain cuts of marble.
Take any line AC and find a point B on it.
such that AB/BC = BC/AC. Now take the actual measurements and you will find that AB/BC, which is equal to BC/AC, 0.618304.
Research studies have shown that this portion, the golden section as it is popularly known, has been used extensively in sculptures, paintings, architecture and even in furniture and type displays. The Greek architects used it extensively.
One of the best examples of the occurrence in nature of the ratio R is to be found in the head of a Sunflower.
The seeds are distributed over the head in spirals which radiate from the centre of the head to the outside edge, unwinding in both clockwise and counter clockwise directions. Detailed study of these spirals have resulted in the following conclusions :
- The spirals are logarithmic spirals.
- The number of clockwise spirals and the number of counter clockwise spirals are successive terms of Fibonacci Series; and thus the ratio of the smaller of these numbers to the larger is what appears to be nature’s best approximation to the ratio R of the golden section. The normal head – 5 to 6 inches n diameter – will generally have 34 spirals unwinding in one direction and 55 spirals unwinding in the other. Smaller heads may have 21/34 or 13/21 combinations and abnormally large heads have 89/144 combinations. The same phenomenon can be observed, perhaps not so easily, in the heads of other flowers such as Daisies and Asters.
Nobody knows why the ratio 0.618034 occurs in nature, nor why the objects proportioned by it are found to be aesthetically pleasing to human beings. Surely it is because we are a part of the nature itself. Yet the mystery remains.
(Adapted from “Riddles in Mathematics, A Book of Paradoxes” by Eugene P. Northrop, Oxford University Press, London, 1959).
The logo, if you take a close look is the spiral of the dynamic symmetry released by the rectangle as explained above. It is a symbol to constantly remind us that we are a part of nature, that we may explore the mysteries of nature, that we are not above it but may struggle to transcend its given level to a more insightful, meaningful and enlivening plane.