Ravi Tilak is the Founder and President of Almex USA, Inc., the worldwide leader in metallurgical plants and process equipment supply. He is a scholar of ancient Indian literature relating to the mythology, theology and the sciences within Hindu and Sufi traditions, and is actively involved in several Indo-American philanthropic and community organizations.
How did you first become involved with Leela, and what made you decide to support us?
I first came to know of Leela’s existence when I saw them perform for the first time, at the UC Irvine event for the Dharma Civilization Foundation [in 2015]. I right away saw the energy in Rina ji, her complete dedication to her art and her profession and that was convincing enough for me to support her. In order to be a performer you need talent, and you also need an institute that will stage shows, you need different qualities. In Rina, I saw her talent as an artist, as well as a group leader. They follow the style of Chitresh Das-ji and that is also very important, it’s very different than the other styles of kathak.
I am a person who is interested in the mystic art of life – whatever does not meet the eye, what is behind the scenes. I find art is the best way of bringing out the things that do not normally meet the eye. We live in cerebral functioning mode, but what we really need is to live in line with our innate nature. Because I have been a student of philosophy, mythology, and theology, I have found time and again that artistic expression, in all its forms, intersects these three fields. This is what has drawn me to art.
Why is it important to you, personally, to support the arts in general and Indian classical dance in particular? What do you want others to know about why Leela’s work matters?
Art always tries to bring out the hidden meaning from anything. That is a capability the modern sciences lack. Sciences only use a few senses at one time – hearing, together with vision for example. But they can’t integrate any of the other known senses – the sixth sense, seventh sense which exist in human beings, science doesn’t even know how to tap into them. Art traverses all the visible as well as invisible senses, and so it takes predominance over science.
Unless the human mind or occupation is allowing that individual free time forms cannot arise. There has always been a culture of fostering art, in different forms, dance, music, drama, literary arts, painting, sculpting, and so on. The kings have always given patronage. There is a concept called raja ashra, it literally means the king gives shelter. Art forms require energy – they cannot arise unless the human mind is given time and space to devote to art.
Supporting the arts is rare in the South Asian community, because many South Asian philanthropists choose to focus their charity on urgent needs like food and education. Why is it important to you, personally, to support the arts in general and Indian classical dance in particular?
I personally believe in supporting the arts because, in the Indian shastras, there are vidya [knowledge] and then there is kala [art]. Kala forms are the only forms which have the potential to generate energy in a person; you cannot create energy in a person through anything else except food and art. You have to consume food to create energy, therefore art is a lifegiving form because it creates energy. The nava rasa are basically creators of energies. We are only humans, not superhumans. Funding art is equally important as funding food because they are the two things that give energy to the human existence – body and mind both.
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