Jul 20, 2016

"Ghadar di Goonj" - Reverberations of The Mutiny (1857)

The uprising in 1857 saw an outpouring of literature, mostly song and poetry, in Punjabi and Hindustani. I am dumping my translation attempts of a select few here on this blog. The poet-fighters did not leave us their names.

One of the high points of humour in our history textbooks is the suggestion that the uprising of 1857 was sparked by the induction of cartridges greased with pork and tallow. Curiously, there is no mention of this in these passionate verses, which dwell on more uninteresting details like systematic exploitation and destitution, famine and hunger, genocide and the crushed spirit of a people, humiliation and honour - a society kept reeling off center as a matter of state policy.

The apathy had set in so deep, that the poems bemoan a lack of sufficient response, while still clinging on to hope, expecting this would at least sow the seeds and mark the new dispensation as an Outsider firmly in the consciousness of the people.

1. A poster: "Manifest Nation"
Now for this manifest nation
    in us grows infatuation, 
As mutinous propaganda
    finds leaven day by day, 
And the overlordship of strangers
    feels like an abomination!
2. A poem: "India's Ravaged Face"
Judgment Day shall find only this,
My tongue, my self-expression:
'A servant of Indian people, I,
This India is my nation.' 
An atom of broken ruins
Of India's ravaged face:
That is my full address,
My only name and trace. 
In blood and humiliation,
Properly Indian I remain,
This is my solar religion,
My only family name. 
Everyday Mother India's people
Sit and stand regretfully;
If only my lot were more like that,
But such is not my destiny! 
Oh India, in your martyrdom
Should I lose my life, my head,
Then I would think my everlasting life
Is to this world be dead. 
3. A poem commemorating May 10, 1857: "Burst Dams of Choked Tears"
We mark this blessed day in memory,
This hallowed day in Indian history;
When extraordinary waves of mutiny
Rolled across the land from mountains to sea. 
The directions pulsed with hot energy,
And martyrdom flashed quite regularly;
Every Indian became sworn devotee
Whose heart and soul throbbed for liberty. 
The siren screamed "Destroy!" nationally,
"You! Kill that fork-tongued, greedy feringhee!"
"Stake the nation's flag to flutter freely!"
"Take back your throne, your crown and glory!" 
A mysterious voice spoke sorrowfully,
To the evening breeze as it blew gently:
"This rebel message of such gravity,
Must vault to the heart of each Hindustani!" 
Every ear heard it more attentively,
Every child in India, and the elderly:
"Finished is darkness and atrocity -
Just dislodge their violent monopoly!" 
So stand up no matter who you may be,
Mature in years or the young and sprightly,
Wipe out the nation's disgrace completely,
Now grip ye the sword and the spear firmly! 
The brokenness of India's great polity,
Broken people of India weep in self-pity,
Exhausted by chaos, dying hungry,
In the vice grip of famine and feringhee. 
Everywhere homelessness spreads rampantly,
Possessed, they fall upon the enemy;
Seeing the state of affairs in the country
Burst dams of choked tears and longanimity.
4. A poem: "It Was For Us They Dithered Not"
For the sake of the life of sacrifice, passionate are we;
Set in our hearts was freedom from these shackles of slavery. 
Propaganda for mutiny was all the mulla's sermon,
Possessed guardian of this celebration was the brahmin. 
Giving up preoccupation with domestic responsibility,
All became a pain in the neck to British monopoly. 
Not an 'uff' of doubt in ascending the hangman's noose,
'Twas for us they dithered not in doubt for life to lose. 
Pandey made his sacrifice for our own sake,
Like Tantya, Nana and Ahmad Shah, and in their wake. 
They sowed the seeds of freedom with their own blood pure,
Alas, as keepers we fell behind in ignorant stupor! 
Cowards like us aren't to be found anywhere in this age;
Who is there with heart so stony that it won't outrage? 
Over there were lost the lives of lakhs of India's progeny,
Till their final breaths they clutched on to the nation's dignity. 
Lakshmi Bai fought on that battleground a manly game;
Soldiers, women, children - all became moths to the flame. 
In a fiery heart does 'REBEL' the leaping flames stoke,
Further bloodshed shall the colour of ripened martyrs provoke. 
Suddenly there was ignited a world of seditious ire;
Here were firangi 'investigators', there were homes set afire. 
That felicitous day in May, today its anniversary,
When the sherbet was martyrdom, and our elders drank it happily. 
Therefore, my love, take this oath upon your life's vitality,
Very soon shall we drive away our India's slavery! 
5. A poem: "By the Outsider"
Awakes the bless'd destiny of India from sleep,
Manifest in her people as a caring deep. 
The Mutiny revived us, faces wet with spray,
Indifference from our negligent hearts driven away!
Reaching India these rays of holistic progress,
Beating it from our homeland is heavy darkness.
Shrunken figures shall now leaven with puberty,
Their constitutions newly inclined to the country!
The veil of indifference from our hearts pure,
Has been lifted now by the Outsider.
I will update this page with more if and when I get to it.

Apr 15, 2016

Between Friendliness and Fascism

Continuous, complex, micro and macro movements of Divergence and Convergence define the murmurations of a flock of birds in flight, as they do human interactions in a dynamic civilization. Attitude determines altitude. A broken wing is a non-starter.
"He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool."
- Proverbs, 10:18
In torrid India, being seen as cool has always been popular: Never offend, never take offence; let bygones be bygones; rather be naive than confrontational. In the Indian Olympics, love is a losing game and the nice guy wins gold; where it is better not to see or know than be appalled at motives and agendas, and a saumya Bollywood Miss Congeniality is the most popular goddess of the season. It is almost religious commandment:
तृणाद् अपि सुनीचेन
तरोर् इव सहिष्णुना ।
अमानिना मानदेन
कीर्तनीयः सदा हरिः ॥ 
"Humbler than even a blade of grass,
Tolerant and stoic like a tree,
Always giving respect but not expecting any in return,
Only being like that, can one sing praise to the Lord!"
Of course, idolization of such ideals happens only in cleft cultures. Indian etiquette tries to stay true to the Golden Rule: "I will talk down to you before you talk down to me." It manifests as moralizing, class contempt, intellectual intimidation, or just plain bullying - depending on one's naturally designed Varna, I presume.

This schizophrenic sabhyata generates a diversity of political ideologies and moral mechanisms to achieve self-control at an individual level (varying attitudes on wealth and ambition, on diet, on the meaning of ritual, on sexual ethics and celibacy, on theological doctrine, on the role of the Rashtra in the individual's sadhana, etc.)... and achieve social control or influence at a Subcontinental level (casteism, religious fascism, Marxist yahoos, "chosen people" syndrome, real and imagined "victimhood" narratives).

The politics of Asmita is not for people who can't think beyond merely managing divergence to minimize its chaotic potentials, instead of capitalizing on its creative evolutionary potentials; it is not for those to whom 'service' and 'conflict' are unrelated - as for those who sloganeer only half the doctrine: अहिंसा परमो धर्मः, धर्महिंसा तथैव च - "Non-violence is the highest Dharma, and so is violence for the sake of Dharma."

Perhaps Indians are imbalanced in the Divergence-Convergence cycle of civilization - scattering but not gathering, or conserving but not evolving:

The fundamentally meta-cultural Arya system assimilated many peoples and cultures due to its integral Asmita process philosophy. But that is only half the cycle. The Arya system also excreted out certain subcultures and peoples from time to time - and in doing so it first freed new possibilities, then selected some in a perpetual cycle of the Principle of Selection:

That excretion can happen in two ways: One, when Arya civilization is dynamic and evolving, then excretion happens when some subcultures choose not to evolve because their intellectual priesthoods prefer a legalistic social control or personal behavioral discipline over the mercurial, curious, loving, spiritually intoxicated and unpredictable current of the soul. Therefore, the Vedic exhortation to make war against the "illiberal", with the help of Indra (as Soma). This is the first way of excretion - like moulting old skin. It creates choice, and it continuously learns from circumstance in the light of fundamentals. The second, decadent, way is when those illiberal priesthoods are dominant, and they exile or excommunicate people who dare to be creatively different in their own journey, or are less than deferential to authority and its set paths. It kills choice, and suffocates Nature's dynamic of Necessity and Possibility.

This much is well understood in India. But the second half of the cycle is not given due justice holistically, either in the modern democratic space, or even by many schools of traditional Vedanta. The hoped-for denouement is a cataclysmic convergence upon a choice, or at least to set up new hierarchies based on the next stage of evolution of meanings, values, and purposes. But perhaps this is understood in an autistic fashion - in a limited individual sphere disconnected from the interpersonal social empathy and political energy. Politically, a mobilization in favour of new, better values, meanings and purposes - or conversely the creative re-tribalization of society back to fresh recognition of rudiments - is de-emphasized, or condemned as uncool, or even inherently Fascist.

For sure, there is some truth to the danger of Fascism in this process. After all, the second half of the cycle is an attempt to seek control of the self and society by re-normalizing social and interpersonal values, hierarchies and potentials on a new cultural platform. No matter how high these new ideals and values, the attempt at self-control and communal power is fraught with dangers of excess. This suppresses the other interlinked aspects of the soul - such as friendliness, a deeper understanding of reality, and how to oppose an adversary while taking responsibility for him, by being invested in understanding his/her viewpoint and devoting energy to communicating, rather than being contemptuously indifferent or fearfully insular. In this, service and conflict are closely related. [See Dasyu-Dāsa dynamic vs. "class struggle" theory] These form 3 points of an equilateral triangle. If one vertex widens too much, then the other two angles will be suppressed; if one is suppressed, the other two will become obtusely wishy-washy:

One is reminded of wise words from someone whose selective glorification of the rudiments of noble Samurai culture lead to Japanese fascism - exactly what he cautions against:
"Discipline in self-control can easily go too far. It can well repress the genial current of the soul. It can force pliant natures into distortions and monstrosities. It can beget bigotry, breed hypocrisy, or habituate affections."

- Inazo Nitobe, Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Taken from:
At the moment, Indian civilization is one up on Bushido, because it could be walking down two opposite ways of total bullshit simultaneously. One, of totally Friendly wishy-washy "all is well" refusal to confront direct provocations, or call out invidious agendas and double standards, and always be at the receiving end of a social dialectic. This is the type who still thinks its OK to have roads and cities named after people like Aurangzeb, or who gush unequivocally over Kipling. Two, of totally clumsy, culturally inept and weak-but-aggressive Hindutva that scores triumphant self-goals (because a majority of Hindus are walking down the first path of total bullshit) and gets painted into the Fascist corner. This is like the squint-eyed pracharak who scowled at the camera and threatened a 'Ghar Wapasi' devoid of brotherly love.

That some sort of Divergence is in process is a foregone conclusion. It remains to be seen if the Gurus who can shepherd Convergence will find themselves in positions of influence when the time is right.

A classic touchstone of the Divergence Convergence process was Dr. Ambedkar - he sacrificed congenial etiquette and chose confrontation to break entrenched aristocratic priesthoods and their hypocritical ideologies - though he himself was educated and mentored by people from that very same aristocratic background. But he also pointed out the boundaries of that divergence, when he went to the radical extent of declaring conversion to non-Indic faith-systems as "denationalization" (which I do not subscribe to as a general rule):

Further, he also pointed towards the Convergence he preferred - championing the cause of the mass revival of Sanskrit literacy, for example, for a new platform for diversity to re-normalize Indian subcultures and society:
What is happening is a natural process of nonsense begetting nonsense: for every pinko Leftist at JNU there will soon be an opposite on the Right. The former misuses Ambedkar's name by highlighting only a portion of his Divergence-Convergence schema to further social division. The latter hates Ambedkar because he broke affinity with the medieval tradition.

An example of scattering but not gathering: The emergence of Sikhism from Hinduism that was struggling against foreign oppression was a spectacular example of constructive Divergence and Convergence over an inter-generational span. It learned from circumstance, returned to fundamentals, created choice at various levels of society, and imbued it with Charhdi Kala and regenerated both wings: Bhakti and Shakti. But in present time, there is a failure to harvest and develop those memes again - as a continuing process within the civilization, rather than as purely schismatic cult. Instead, yet another cleft has been introduced by a hidebound Sikh priesthood and superficially appreciative Hindus. The excretion in process is of the illiberal type on the Sikh side, and of the obtusely liberal type on the other.

Theologically, this manifests as a new trend of irrational aversion to "monotheism" among politically-aware Hindutva, under the spell of a shallow Atheism, or a neo-Advaita philosophy of compromise that makes a hodge-podge of possibilities by scuttling the Principle and Process of Selection. The rich and deep tradition of Indic Monotheism gets the short shrift - Any similarity with historical manifestations of Christian or Islamic monotheism is seen as identitical. There is an unwillingness to distinguish differences between an Infinite but Unique Monotheism that bounds the two ends of the Divergence-Convergence process of Selection, and a fundamentally Angry Schismatic Monotheism that chokes the process of discovery. There is a discomfort with accepting that some level of violence may be part of both processes, but its role and employment in each differ significantly in value, meaning and purpose. Here is another view on this subject by an author I love, and who is of non-theistic bent:
Gods, God, Unity, Unit - by Aravindan Neelakandan
In my view, there is only one way to gather all parts of society and all Varnas of human into one flock. Perhaps, only when the civilization can gather itself to the Gurus to learn the holistic process of Divergence-and-Convergence that sits in the lap of the Monotheistic Infinite, can the flock take flight again.

Happy Ram Navami!

Apr 28, 2014

Policy and Law: Moral consequences in the Here and Hereafter

Ethics, Policy and Law are concerned with distinguishing 'right' from 'wrong' and enforcing a balance of right in society. But do diferent religious-cultural backgrounds have a different colouring effect on Policy and Law? If so, do jurisprudence and policy frameworks conceived in the West and East complement or pervert one another? The service-relationship between the Conscious and Subconscious minds determines the semantics of Policy and Legal systems.

If only a Way existed so that each human being could know right from wrong, the world would be a better place, both, in the Here and Hereafter. Below are two different approaches found in the world. Whether the 'Hereafter' means the ever-present 'subconscious' or a postmortem destination is immaterial. It all depends on what one's reference of communication is - a Person or Book?

Dharma - Personal Fountainhead
Yudhiṣṭhira was Dharmarāja, king of Dharma. When K. recommended that he lie about Aśvatthāma's death in order to throw the latter's father Droa into grief-stricken confusion, Yudhiṣṭhira hesitated to lie. Immediately the wheels of his chariot, which hitherto spun two inches off the earth, hit the floor. The common people's version says that this happened because he lied. But the theological commentaries say it happened because he hesitated to lie on K.'s suggestion. धर्मं तु साक्षाद् भगवत् प्रणीतम् - "Dharma is what is laid down for enactment directly by the Lord, without proxy." The word sākāt is important - it means immediate, live, without proxy.

After passing from this world, Yudhiṣṭhira passes a test of patience, loyalty and intelligence: He reaches Heaven, only to find that it was filled with his erstwhile enemies, the Kauravas. He was then taken to Hell where his brothers and wife were suffering bitter torments. Shocked by the blood and gore he saw there, his initial reaction was to flee. But then he made a value judgment - he decided it was preferable to endure Hell with good people he loved than enjoy Heaven in the company of evil. Eventually this also turned out to be an illusion to test him, as Indra soon revealed. But significantly, the commentaries point out that it also served to atone for his sin of having lied to his guru, Droa - a breach of loyalty to someone he loved.

So, it was in his Hereafter that Yudhiṣṭhira atoned for the lie, and not in the Here & Now of Kuruketra. In the Present Moment of Kuruketra, Yudhiṣṭhira paid for not heeding the amoral impetus of K.'s advice. His connection with his Lord fell short of intention without reservation. Whereas in the Hereafter he atoned for the overt lie by way of commitment to a value - its meaning and purpose re-orienting his intelligence after he overcome the initial impetus of the reactive mind.
धर्मं तु साक्षाद् भगवत् प्रणीतम्
न वै विदुर्ऋषयो नापि देवाः ।
न सिद्ध-मुख्या असुरा मनुष्याः
कुतो नु विद्याधर-चारणादयः ॥
"Real religious principles (Dharma) are directly enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great Seers who occupy the uppermost Heavens cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods nor the leaders of the Heaven of the Perfected Souls, to say nothing of the Demonic Titans, ordinary human beings, and other Celestial beings." 
~ Srimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.19
The word sākāt above is key - "immediate, witnessed live, without proxy". So in the Dharmic traditions, ultimate morality is based on connectedness, not on proxies such as a book, an ideology, and the diktats of a reigning priesthood. [Head, Heart & Connectedness: Browsing the marketplace of identities].

Morality is discovered as a circumstantial undercurrent rather than depicted as an overt isolated quality. [Moral equivalence - Exterior manifestations vs. Undercurrents]. In other words, morality is consequential, not deontological.

The desideratum - connectedness - is achieved through using up one's gifts in the energetic service of goodness, and by making a sacrifice based on intelligence - rather than surrendering one's intelligence to priestcraft. [The Dasyu-Dāsa dynamic vs. "class struggle" theory]

That intelligence suggests a different formula for different conditions of existence, and different circumstances of time, place and maturity of stakeholders. [The Resurrection of the Karma Kanda]. Therefore, great law-givers are humans, albeit of transcendental intelligence. Being human, every law codex has an expiry date, nothing absolute about it. Thus, it is not surprising that Hindu civilization, for example, has had various codices of law (dharma-śāstras) at different times and in different areas - the smritis of Manu, Apastamba, Baudhayana, Gautama, Vasishta, Parasara. None of them are absolutely sacrosanct, all of them yielding way to others. In modern times, sadhus campaigning on behalf of political Hindutva go from village to village brandishing the Constitution of the Republic of India as a modern smriti that has to be upheld as sacred law - and the intentions of its authors in the Preamble be honored rather than subverted in letter and spirit. 

Priestcraft and cultural solutions are only scaffolding to support one at various stages of the journey home. Later it becomes a resource base to contribute one's own experience and knowledge to, for the sake of future seekers. [Priest-craft: Managed solutions vs. Unmanaged customizations].

Religious-Ideological 'Scripture' - Impersonal Template
In a tradition that is religious in a purely ideological sense (or obversely dubbed "secular", i.e., shy of the domination of a religious priesthood), morality is measured purely by overt affiliation with a certain dogma and set of beliefs.

At this level of 'thought', a book and variegated literature in pursuance of its contents become the direct word of God. The book is not a proxy in this consideration, it is God Himself. It is not that God is experienced immediately (not via 'feelings' or a 'spirit') in the Word, but rather that a recorded word is itself God, whose human-intelligible interpretations bring one experience of God in the Hereafter. It is not that the Sabbath was made for Man, but that Man was made for the Sabbath. At this level of existence, memory processes are such that Commemoration of a historical event is mistaken for Remembrance of a Living God. At this level of existence, preference is given to commemorating the cultural products (sanskriti) of some previous spiritual process instead of personal implementation of a living spiritual process (sabhyatā).

Of course, even within a Dharmic framework, for the seeker who is not self-realized, who lacks connectedness of conscience with the divine, books and disciplines are necessary and a virtue. But even in that case, the adherence to tenets and practices is subordinated to the subtle immediate connection, and this is so clearly emphasized by Dharmic scripture that the maxim is "Dharma is subtle (sukshma)", not overt. Whereas in a non-Dharmic context, all logic is subordinated to the word of 'scripture', and it becomes almost totally deductive. In the post 'Yukta-Vairagya: Natural merger of Classical & Sacred' I quoted:
YOUTUBE: Discussion of Madhusudana Saraswati's Prasthāna-Bheda - by Shri Narendra Khapre 
Why and when would one ignore a religious scripture? It says: "If it interrupts or impedes a purushārtha (one of the 4 natural human dynamics of righteousness, ambition, sensuality, and liberation)." That's an essentially classical view. But in a purely sacred dāsa-kūṭa tradition, or an Abrahamic religion like Islam, it goes something like this: Refer to your awliya (saints and their predecessors), but if their justifications contradict the statements of the sahābā (Companions of the Prophet), then reject it and go with that of the Companions, and if the words of a Companion contradict that of the Prophet and Qur'an, then bypass that and go with the Qur'an and prophetic Sunna. In other words, its "logic" is purely deductive and has no anchor point in the real world in Present Time.
In the Dharmic context, the classical is the substrate of all 'sacred' experiments, until one reaches full self-realization. Whereas in the non-Dharmic context, the sacred is the substrate of all culture and observation, and anything that does not fit into that framework is discarded or suppressed.

Empiricism vs. Legalism
The logical framework of Dharmic spirituality devolves to Experientialism, whereas the logical framework of religious-ideological spirituality devolves to Legalism. 

Even in dāsa-kūṭa traditions within the Dharmic context, after delineating a million do's and don'ts - all with the purpose of pleasing the Lord - the final "how to" is invariably येन-केनापि - "somehow or the other!" - ultimately leaving it to the intense desire and inventiveness of the seeker after launching himself/herself from that framework. In this context, social law and its punishments serve to preserve the integrity of the classical tradition and culture (sabhyatā), rather than enforce individual morality which is a matter of personal experience and the nuances of one's specific family background.

But in the Legalistic framework of Islam, satisfaction in the pure duplication of the Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) actions in different circumstances is considered the pinnacle of self-realized morality (a philosophy finding its full expression in the works of Imam Rabbani a.k.a. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi). In the legalistic framework of Islam (fiqh), all actions pertaining to every aspect of living can be pigeon-holed into one of five groups:
Fardh - Those commands of Allah (recorded in scripture) which are obligatory, without which one falls from one's status as a faithful believer. 
Wajib - An act that usually accompanies a Fardh, and are practically compulsory - unless there is a very good scriptural precedent to omit it in a special circumstance. 
Sunnat-e-muakkadah - A habit or act of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that is extremely desirable to imitate. To omit its performance now and them can be overlooked, but to become habitually neglectful of it is a sign that one is misguided. 
Sunnat-e-ghair muakkadah - A habit or act of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that the Prophet himself often omitted without any reason - thus freeing the faithful from the obligation to deductive reasoning. However, performance of even such occasional or arbitrary acts of the Prophet brings great reward and are highly encouraged. 
Mustahab - Those actions that are to be encouraged, but are not compulsory. There is no harm if one omits it, but there is reward in doing it 
Mubah - Those actions that are neither encouraged nor discouraged, such as whether to wear a green or red shirt. 
Makrooh - Acts considered disgusting to Allah, the performance of which is not forbidden but highly discouraged nevertheless. In certain extenuating circumstances they may be done, or even encouraged. 
Haraam - Those acts that are forbidden. Anyone who denies the forbidden nature of such acts is considered an unbeliever. There is reward in refraining from such acts. 
All except Haraam acts are considered 'Halaal' - those that do not make one lose one's status as a believer. The entire spectrum of action (halaal to haraam) is based on "authenticated texts" as transmitted by bona fide transmitters. It is these personal ethics that are to be enforced via state law. The nuances of one's specific family and cultural background are to be wiped off if they are not a smooth fit to this curve.

Law, Policy and Interpersonal Culture
In a Dharmic situation, the law serves policy, and policy serves the civilization and culture of self-realization. In a non-Dharmic situation, cannibalized cultures are made to serve policy, and policy serves the fullest possible implementation of the law in any given condition of existence.

In that non-Dharmic context, while the law and its intent is clear, a wise policy is to be used to realize its implementation. Violence is a last resort, though the threat of violence and the overwhelm of power is apparently encouraged in some cultures more than others. At the best of times, polite admonishment is the best policy, often just with the eyes. At the worse of times, one uses lies and dissimulation, subversion and overt complaints, negotiations and treaties in order to protect or further the cause. Somewhere inbetween these two extremes is a love of doing battle.

I think whether Dharmic or non-Dharmic, there is a fair overlap in policy choices, and one cannot determine the Dharmic quotient merely from a snapshot of policy. But perhaps by observation of long-running policy trends, and discerning the service-relationships between law, policy and interpersonal culture, one can draw conclusions. The 'modes of doing' are common to the human condition in general. [See table in 'Be Do Have: Creativity, Faith, Works and Witnessing'].

The basic equations between the three definitely has a huge bearing on inter-personal relationships and also inter-communal relationships [Blasphemy and Multicultural Democracy]. For example, in the command-obedience scheme, this Qur'anic command assumes extraordinary importance: "al Amr bil Ma'aroof wal nahi an'il Munkar" - "To enjoin what is good and to forbid what is wrong". But "good" and "wrong" are values that have no real empirical basis here, except as handed down to "believers". So the Shi'a considers it his godly duty to curse and condemn the other 3 Caliphs and several Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who were politically in a different faction from 'Ali (rs) - because the Shi'a needs to forbid to his fellow Muslims and human beings the wrong guidance they may be getting from those people who are not chosen by the Lord. On the other hand, the Sunni needs to forbid and condemn this blasphemy of the Shi'as, who dare to blaspheme the holy Companions who descended onto this Earth to participate in Muhammad's divine career ("leela", as it were), and are all sacrosanct by association despite any apparent human imperfections. Their apparent imperfections must be seen in terms of various paths to tawheed (cognition of Oneness) and attraction to Muhammad (who is perfect), and so every Muslim chooses to emulate one or the other holy Companion based on something that draws him to that Companion's character, something he can identify with. By denigrating large sections of Companions and questioning several hadiths, the Shi'as are spreading mischief and doubt among the Muslim ummah and its perfect system for approaching tawheed. Therefore, the Shi'a and the Sunni are locked in mutual condemnation, one reacting to the other. The only time this death-spiral pauses and transforms into unity is when the non-Muslim casts a shadow, for the non-Muslim threatens things that both Shi'a and Sunni consider even more sacred than their mutual differences. Therefore, this is a tribalistic mindset, where blood and faction are closely related.

Justice and Mercy
A tendency towards Haraam acts is to be punished both Here on earth as well as in the Hereafter. Wherever possible, Haraam is to be discouraged by a combination of "fear and hope", as formulated by the master theologian Ghazali. In implementing the system, legalism is again the prime recourse - in which case an interesting philosophical turn comes into sight - the relationship between Justice and Mercy. True Mercy is only in the Hereafter, for all practical purposes. A very telling hadith (narration) from the Prophet's times is as follows:
From Sahih Muslim 4206 -  
"'Abdullah b. Buraida reported on the authority of his father: There came to the Prophet (S) a woman from Ghamid and said: 'Allah's Messenger (S), I have committed adultery, so purify me.' He turned her away. On the following day she said: 'Allah's Messenger (S), why do you turn me away? Perhaps you turn me away as you turned away Ma'iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant.' He (S) said: 'Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child).' 
When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: 'Here is the child whom I have given birth to.' He (S) said: 'Go away and suckle him until you wean him.'
When she had weaned him, she came to the Prophet (S) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: 'Allah's Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food.' 
Prophet (S) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded the people and they stoned her.
Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head, and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah's Apostle (S) heard Khalid's curse. 
Thereupon he (S) said: 'Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even it a wrongful tax collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.' 
Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried."
The believer woman in this case displayed a sterling quality of taking responsibility for her crime. Her penitence was simply in undergoing the prescribed torment in the Here, in order to absolve herself of consequences in the Hereafter. According to this level of consideration, her voluntary shame in this world contributed to her honour in the next. This consideration is common to mindsets characterized by a dipole of honour and shame, or sin and redemption.

Honesty and Introspection
Among communities with such a non-dharmic legalistic mindset are to be found several individuals who are 'honest' and friendly in terms of saying what they think and doing what they say - but they frankly cannot be apologetic for what has been prophesied, no matter how seemingly absurd, hypocritical, or horrific. Their reasoning and responsibility for personal value judgments operates within a very limited jurisdiction, one of deductions from scripture. This is quite unlike Yudhiṣṭhira.

There is something strange with their 'honesty '. It contains no part of that introspection in the sense of being the Observer separate from the Observed (drg-drshya viveka). Any 'introspection' is very superficial, about who is promiscuous (ayyash, aubash) or a devious cheat (makkaar), and who isn't.

The majority of the discourse in such cultures tends to externalize blame to conspiratorial non-believers, while being equally swift to tackle 'traitors' within. Such 'honesty' necessarily has a cruel edge to it. At the same time, the sense of responsibility is displays is equally macabre, albeit sometimes inspiring - a tribute to human nature and its willingness to sacrifice for righteousness, no matter what culture one is from.

It is rather chilling to realize that, given the naivete human intelligence is capable of, human societies can gain their sense of righteousness from rather primitive religiosity and 'honesty', as much as from a deeper introspective Dharma. It does appear that the Lord is equally generous with his blessings of righteousness (and all the powers that flow from that certainty) to both, the divine and the daemon. Perhaps when the river of Karma breaches its banks and the tide overwhelms everything including the Lord, it will be left to humans to realize that the locus of actual salvation is the Person within.

Mar 15, 2014

Yukta-Vairagya: Natural merger of Classical & Sacred

The Hindi metaphor, sone pe suhaga (borax on gold) refers to an ideal amalgam of two things - one intrinsically valuable, the other worthless by itself but possessing some useful reactive properties with the thing of value. Gold in native state is a dull metal that has no glitter or resemblance to what we know as gold. It gains its aesthetic brilliance and practical value when borax is added to it, with heat.

My friend Rajesh A. (BRF) reasons that there is a distinction between 'sabhyata' - the process - and 'sanskriti' - the product - of civilization. In this view, patriotic dedication to nation-building and security is a legitimate form of worship [the conversation was in response to this blogpost: Head, Heart & Connectedness: Browsing the marketplace of identities].

Unfortunately, its common to hear pseudo-liberals in India and outside say things like: "Transcending religion and culture is the goal of human evolution. The sooner religion dies out, the less problems the world will have." But there is a difference between transcendence and mere deracination.

Personal confusion (at an individual level) or petty politics (at an organizational or national level) is based around an artificial conflict between "sacred" values and "classical" worldly values, or between cultural-spiritual and material issues. Whereas mature personal ethics or organizational politics is based around an amalgamation of the sacred and the classical in a sort of annealing process. Like that Hindi metaphor, sone pe suhaga. Isha Upanishad, mantra 11:
विद्यां चाविद्यां च यस्
तद् वेदोभयं सह ।
अविद्यया मृत्युं तीर्त्वा
विद्ययामृतम् अश्नुते ॥ 
"Only one who can learn the process of nescience (classical worldly knowledge) and that of transcendental knowledge (spiritual culture) side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality."
In a genuine annealing process of the self or of nation-building, the hard dichotomy between 'sacred' and so-called 'profane' melts away in favour of dovetailing and then amalgamation. This has been described by the paradoxical term yukta-vairagya (harnessed in renunciation) in the terminology of the bhakti shāstras. Amalgamation of the numinous and the phenomenal applies as much to the nation (rāshtra) as it does to the individual. Some observations of the characteristics of these two configurations (corrections and additions are welcome):

Learning by:
·         Training and creative evolution.
·         Practice.
·         Letting go of concepts, and by co-creative (or service-oriented) involution.
·         Practice.
Recognition of value by:
·         Perception and estimation of observable characteristics.
·         Immediate perception of contextual quiddity beneath observable data.
Social scope:
·         Objective.
·         Results of and in This world.
·         Subjective.
·         Results of and in Other world.
Epistemological scope:
·         Extensional.
·         Normative.
·         Descriptive.
·         Intensional.
·         Positive.
·         Prescriptive.
Type of reality:
·         By experiment and agreement.
·         By a priori personal conviction.
Attitude to change vs fixity:
·         Uses a probabilistic model, which models uncertainty itself as an element.
·         Emphasis on continuity of sabhyatā – the civilizing process that generates culture.
·         Seeks continuity and permanence as observer of constant change.
·         Wants devotional activity (seva) to serve Time.
·         Uses a deterministic model, which strives to root out uncertainty.
·         Emphasis on continuity of sanskriti – the cultural products of the civilizing process.
·         Seeks permanence in escape and transcendence from temporal change.
·         Wants to achieve a state where  Time is in the service of the devotional activity (leela).
Pedagogical type:
·         vyāsa-kūṭa
·         dāsa-kūṭa
Typical method of communication:
·         By demonstration or argument.
·         Peer-reviewed agreement by individuals considered 'qualified'.
·         Specialization of knowledge and authority.
·         By suggestion or insinuation.
·         Gradual creeping or sudden invasive ideological mould.
·         Generalization of knowledge and authority.
Type of logic:
·         Inductive.
·         Ascending process.
·         Elevationism.
·         Deductive.
·         Descending process.
·         Salvationism.
Mass vs. significance:
·         Bias towards significance.
·         Does not attach importance to physical mass or its force.
·         Considers clearing of mental mass and its reactive mental force as highly desirable.
·         Subtle contempt for mass as purely temporal and its mental force as impinging on clarity of conscious thought.
·         Prefers subsuming lower significance with larger significance rather than force-reduction of Other or Self.
·         Bias towards mass and its force.
·         Attached to maximum demonstration of mass and its physical or emotive force whenever possible.
·         Considers mental mass and its emotive force as mystical source and causative.
·         Subtle contempt or neglect of intellectual significance as being manufactured and therefore less ‘real’, with presence of mass being primary reality.
·         Prefers force-reduction of Other, and sometimes of Self, in confrontation and negotiation.
Propagation pattern:
·         Scatter-gather pattern of survival and propagation, or other multi-vector type of algorithms to allow itself to learn and evolve.
·         Alternating between syncretism (bee-like gathering from diverse flowers) and detached cooking / abstraction of essence.
·         Not averse to sacrificing quantitative mass to extract qualitative significance.
·         Greedy algorithms, or any linear quantitative pattern like an incremental tree structure to encyst the individual mind or involve a society.
·         Alternating between expansion and consolidation.
·         Averse to sacrificing mass and its force, re-interprets significance to accommodate maximum mass-force at any given time.
Symbiotic/competitive strategy:
·         Cuckolds sacred spaces for thought seeding and power projection, without asserting ownership of it.
·         Infiltrates the associative command networks of the sacerdotal and puts its own ideas on those communication lines.
·         Employs one set of sacred memes to differentiate itself from competing classical cultures and their memes.
·         OR alternatively, it facilitates interfaith dialogue between competing sacerdotal networks in order to create new significance via forceless subsuming of competing significance.
·         Marries or takes ownership of classical culture and uses it as a carrier for legitimacy of its own cognitions or commands.
·         Subverts the liberality of the classical culture to protect its own freedom to operate.
·         Uses the complex thought-products of the carrier for argument – albeit in a reductionist form.
·         Employs its classical carrier culture to envelop and project power into the classical space of another competing sacerdotal network. Ultimately wishes force-reduction of competing sacred networks – to demolish or derogate competing sacred spaces and their material symbols.
Socio-political fingerprint:
·         Elite formation in different fields with agreeable or submitted mass base in tow.
·         Formal and institutional relationships.
·         Diversification of social opportunity into formal roles based on qualification.
·         Based on Individual cognition, demonstrated abilities, and aesthetic / ethical orientation.
·         Relationships are personal.
·         Re-tribalization of society, forging of discrete, homogenous caste-collectives based on identification with a general aesthetic or orientation.
Cultural attitude:
·         Celebration of diversity.
·         Cultural relativism.
·         Liberalism.
·         Multipolar world order.
·         Emphasis on different entitlements earned on adherence to universal values underlying diverse aesthetic preferences or orientations.
·         Preference for democratic institutions.
·         Celebration of exclusivity.
·         Hierarchical specificity.
·         Asserts its own socio-political separateness.
·         Unipolar dispensation.
·         Emphasis on equal entitlements based on affiliation to totalitarian uniformity (mistaken for "universal" and “egalitarian”).
·         Preference for absolute monarchy.
Via media:
·         Participation in formation of mainstream outlets of social discourse and educational networks.
·         Individual authority, around whom a small group forms aloof from mainstream society, which then uses plug-ins to the mainstream via willing individuals (disciples or agents).
Polarity on psycho-spiritual spectrum:
·         Partial towards Daivic side of spectrum.
·         Partial towards Asuric side of spectrum.

Dangerous dichotomies of Classical & Sacred - process and precedence
Problems arise when the sacred and classical memes are at odds within the individual or the body politic. Isha Upanishad, mantra 9:
अन्धं तमः प्रविशन्ति
येsविद्याम् उपासते ।
ततो भूय इव ते तमो
य उ विद्ययां रताः ॥ 
"Those who engage in the culture of purely phenomenal processes shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged solely in the culture of so-called transcendental knowledge."
Two circumstances can result in problems such as blind fanaticism, OR deracination mistaken for transcendence. The first is imbalance between attention due to "classical" phenomenal and "sacred" numinous processes, where one overwhelms the other. E.g., Communist or theocratic societies. The second is the artificial separation between the sacred and classical, in a way that hinders the continuous process of their interaction. E.g., artificial pseudo-secularism and separation of church and state as evolved from a particular civilization with an adverse historical experience with a particular type of sacred memeplex.

The healthy interaction of the sacred and classical is not facilitated by either of the above two types of nation-building experiments. Rather, it is facilitated by a fleshed-out varṇāshrama operating as per the laws governing the harmonies between the 4 main purushārthas - dharma (physical and metaphysical laws), artha (ambition for possession or havingness), kāma (pleasure), moksha (spiritual release). And what is the operator precedence assigned to these fundamental instincts in Indian civilization? Following is from a lecture at Samskrita Bharati California. It talks about how to approach Vedic literature, what to read and in what sequence, and what to avoid reading/following:
YOUTUBE: Discussion of Madhusudana Saraswati's Prasthāna-Bheda - by Shri Narendra Khapre
Why and when would one ignore a religious scripture? It says: "If it interrupts or impedes a purushārtha." That's an essentially classical view. But in a purely sacred dāsa-kūṭa tradition, or an Abrahamic religion like Islam, it goes something like this: Refer to your awliya (saints and their predecessors), but if their justifications contradict the statements of the sahābā (Companions of the Prophet), then reject it and go with that of the Companions, and if the words of a Companion contradict that of the Prophet and Qur'an, then bypass that and go with the Qur'an and prophetic Sunna. In other words, its "logic" is purely deductive and has no anchor point in the real world in Present Time.

Now as the above lecture indicates, Madhusudana Saraswati's compilation is not merely an individual's opinion, but rather it is a commentary on a civilization's classical tradition. In that traditional opinion, a particular historical source is to be bypassed if it impedes the Purushārthas. The purushārthas are rooted in the real world in Present Time. It is based on the individual's current condition, and even then it is not merely prescriptive for different conditions, but actively involves the personal judgment and decisions of the individual. It is a descriptive tradition rather than prescriptive - the prescriptive texts of various dāsa-kūṭa sects are embedded within this tradition.

At the same time, the lecture talks about the meaning of "Bhārata". Being a Bhārata (or Bhāratiya) is to undertake tapas for the love of knowledge, or for knowledge of love. Bhārata = One who is addicted (rata) to pursuing Light (bhā) even at the cost of everything, like a moth is drawn to a flame. So the etymological derivation of "Bhārata" itself extols Light - the light of cognition and knowledge and love. It is not biased either towards an obsession with "salvation" or an obsession with "elevation" to some esoteric knowledge. It is an innate neediness for cognition and learning and serving that process only. In sum, Dharma = logical Buddhi + unselfish Heart.

Among all types of nations and cultures and their respective configurations of the sacred and the classical, only the one with a Bhārata culture is chosen by the Vedic gods. A premature or wrongly-ordered form of 'release' is either a half-baked pseudo-liberal deracination from sacred culture; or a horrible perversion by an essentially malicious sacred core wherein the individual becomes captive or compulsive, his intelligence clouded.

Pehle devālaya phir shauchālaya
Clearly, those political forces whose agenda is obsessed with sacred fetishes are for the worse. They are fascist fanatics who will eventually create a contra-survival situation for the rāshtra, first spiritually and then materially. Kauṭilya warns:
अन्नहीनो दहेद् राष्ट्रं मन्त्रहीनश्च ऋत्विजः ।
यजमानं दानहीनो नास्ति यज्ञसमो रिपुः ॥ 
"There's no enemy like a yajna (sacred sacrifice)
...that leaves the food reserves of the nation depleted,
...and/or that is executed by an intermediary (priesthood, brotherhood, etc.) that doesn't understand the meanings of the mantras,
...and/or and that is commissioned by one who doesn't understand the meaning of charity."
Therefore, as Modi put it, pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya:

Cultural Nationalism
On the other hand, the Rāṣtra (civilizational dominion) has its roots in paurohitya (cultural wizardry; spiritual meaning and purpose for civilization). A Rāṣtra disconnected from visionary guidance will not be on a firm footing or endure very long. Brahminical varṇa is placed clearly and unambiguously as the reference frame for kṣatriya varṇa, where the brahmaṇa is a context (śarman) from which the kṣatriya operates. Only when Kshātra and Paurohitya are yoked, will the mercantile class be observant of national justice, This common sense significance of purohita to rāṣtra is in ancient sources like the Aitareya Aranyaka (8.40.25):
क्षत्रेण क्षत्रं जयति बलेन बलम् अश्नुते यस्यैवं विद्वान् ब्रह्मणो राष्ट्रगोपः पुरोहितस् तस्मै विशः संजानते सम्मुखा एकमनसो यस्यैवं विद्वान् ब्रह्मणो राष्ट्रगोपः पुरोहितः । 
"By lordly power he conquereth lordly power (kṣatram - soft power projection),
By might he attaineth might (balam - hard power projection),
Who hath for Purohita to guard the dominion,
A Brahmaṇ with this knowledge,
For him are his people in harmony,
With one aspect and one mind,
Who hath for Purohita to guard the kingdom
A Brahmaṇ with this knowledge."
Thus, those political forces whose guiding ideology does not go beyond supposedly pragmatic secular preoccupations - at the cost of the sacred soul of the rāshtra - are also making a fundamental error. By limiting the national discourse only to material issues, they corrode away the spiritual-cultural basis of nationhood instead of allowing it to evolve in a healthy manner by contact with the torrent of the material world and its flux.

Unless democratic politics at a national level goes hand-in-hand with a genuine liberal personal culture and civilization, it will be subverted or abused by non-liberal cultural and civilizational forces that deliberately or unwittingly undermine the very idea of the empowerment of the individual in relation to the collective.

Conversely, in order to fight off a non-liberal "sacred" meme, one needs to draw on one's own "sacred" memes and deploy them strategically, both, as sources of inspiration as well as means of aggression. An appraisal of the overall balance of sacred and classical memes within one's own culture would constitute the risk assessment of doing so. For instance, 90% of Hindu or Buddhist core source literature is liberal spiritual in content, whereas 90% of Islamic or even some Christian core source literature is blood-curdling. The risk assessment to intrinsic liberalism in deploying the sacred is clearly different in each case, and anyone who tries to slip in a false moral equivalence between the two is either ignorant or a liar. Whence the Dharmic case for ecstatic religious-cultural deployment:
॥ इन्द्रं वर्धन्तो अप्तुरः कृण्वन्तो विश्वं आर्यं अपघ्नन्तो अराव्णः ॥ 
"Augmented by Indra's (Soma's) strength, civilize the world by destroying the non-liberal and jealous ones." ~ Rigveda 9.63.5
 See also: Violence and Kshātra: War, Religion & Philosophy