Feb 27, 2013

Can Hindutva do Yoga?

What is "Hindutva", where is it coming from? How has it changed colours and manifested different tendencies along the way, and where is it going? Is it a reactionary threat from a bruised past, or could it be an opening to a new future for India as an all-inclusive civilization? There is some polarization and imbalance in Indian politics today around these questions.

समत्वं योग उच्यते । "Balance or evenness is called Yoga."
So goes the famous phrase from the Bhagavad Gita (2.48). In practical terms, it is the intelligence to correct an imbalance or unevenness that resulted from the effort to stretch one's concept of Self. It is a technique to correct problems in a way that is safe and also beneficial.

Its a given that an individual, society, civilization and humanity is continuously exploring new frontiers of information, exterior and interior to its sense of self. In this exploration, the individual or society stretches itself beyond familiar limits, or is stretched by circumstances it gets itself into. So an understanding of the territory is helpful, and a technique is needed to regain balance or reach new stable ground.

A map would give one an understanding of the territory. If one finds oneself on new or dangerous ground, one can use the map to decide on a course. Perhaps one could retreat to the safety of old familiar ground. But that would not be beneficial if newer ground can be discovered after, say, fording a river or climbing a plateau.

Of course it goes without saying that "the map is not the territory", in the famous words of Count Alfred Korzybski in his dissertation, Science and Sanity. But even more interestingly, one could say that "the map is part of the territory", as far as human consciousness goes! Therefore, even more than the biophysical environment, cultural "mind-maps" (mathematically analyzed) are important for intrapersonal and political preferences. That then goes back into reshaping the environment and world we live in.

So as the individual or a social or political movement evolves or devolves, it may manifest several tendencies. Some of these tendencies may enhance survival, others are counter-survival, and still others simply vain indulgences. Even among these, some tendencies may be more pro-survival than others, or some may be less damaging than others.

Importantly, some tendencies that seem risky or retrogressive may be just what is needed to be able to find new ground, and therefore must be undertaken - with a vision. Whereas other over-cautious obsessions may hold the individual or society back, and keep one chained to old and familiar burdens and enemies that continue to slowly feed on one's soul.

Which tendencies should one support in adjusting to - and proactively reshaping - the political environment? Which tendencies to restrain? Which tendencies can compensate for the risks of other tendencies?

I found a good table that maps various tendencies from different angles of vision, and puts them on a grade-scale, along an axis of optimal balance:

Source: The Order Of Time website.

My observation is that, down each column, the ideological tendency one step before balance also acts like an inflection point. We can call it the Penultimate step. At this point, there is a tendency to ripple right back in a sort of reverse peristaltic movement, back to the tendency one step after the balance point. We can call this the Intrapersonal Limit point, for it is the logical conclusion of the drive, taken independently of all other drives with one's body as the reference point. This reverse peristaltic movement vomits all the discontents of the system before a rebuilding can begin. So from this Limit point, one then cycles down through all the other steps, including the Penultimate step, and then one comes out the other side and actually reaches the balance. However -- if one does not have that enlightening cognition on the self and life in the Penultimate step during the first iteration, then one can fall over into excess - one falls into an unenlightened mode of the Intrapersonal Limit!

Example 1: The "cultism" phase under the column "religion" is an inflection point. If in the course of life one has drifted into a religious or political cult ideology, and then has certain cognitions, it can lead to greater maturity. Then one tends to start over, first from a self-pampering "royal" enjoyment of what one has of life or can reach for. Then one moves into re-examining the "fundamentals" (but with a new vision this time). Then cycles through "traditionalism", and learn to integrate it into a "holistic" life. Again at the penultimate step, there is a re-entry into the deeply personal imago of the "cult" cocoon (but with purpose and vision this time), until one comes out from it into "balance". However, if one does not have a metacognition in the cult phase the first time round itself, then one is likely to fall over into excess, in the form of the "religious royalty cultish dead-end", and its worshiping devotees. Either one becomes the guru maharaj, or one of the acolytes.

This can be applied to any column. Also, perhaps more than one iteration may be required between the Penultimate step and the Limit, so that one gains all the necessary cognitions before one emerges into the point of balance on a new plane. Lastly, to get a comprehensive view of any religious, political or social ideology, one could map out its position along all columns and then put it on a grade-scale in comparison to other ideologies or cultures.

For the purposes of this blog entry, some brief thoughts about the column "politics":
(1) The "populism" phase under politics is the Penultimate inflection point. At a point when a tendency gains popularity (e.g. at a punctuated equilibrium in a society's evolution), then cults form and there is a tendency to gravitate to a "formal" ideology that best encapsulates the desires associated with this tendency.
(2) Next, there is likely to be the emergence of a "strong leader"  or more preferably a tight leadership core that consolidates the ideological movement and fleshes it out -- especially by wisely encompassing opposing but complementary points of view -- then captures the commanding heights of political power, and begins changes in all limbs of the establishment - political, educational, economic, cultural.
(3) From there a dynamic society should move into a new nationalism that is not centered on a particular personality or its dynastic succession, but on a national purpose linked with its civilization's worldview, to grow stronger economically and healthier socially.
(4) From there it would move into an isolationist phase, to consolidate its gains and capitalize on them, feed itself and grow strong in order to project power internationally.
(5) From there the society would re-enter a populist phase, where there is a widespread will aligned with the national purpose conceived earlier, and a widespread implementation of the promised benefits conceived in the populist phase the first time round.
(6) Once these benefits are received at the popular level, there should emerge a general recognition of its limits, and a national cognition of a new plane of existence that involves balance.
(7) However, if there is no proper cognition the first time round in the "populist" phase, then no good "formalism" comes from it, or rather an intellectually mediocre ideology rides the tide and leads to a chronic excess in the "formalism" step, of legalistic ideological affiliation and repeated purges of people who cannot continually swear by that ideology.

I think its easy to see that in movements where this has not played out, there has been a stalling of the iteration, and ultimately it leads to greater and greater tension and conflict - either internal, or with other societies - or simply stagnation.

In step (1) from above, movements that generated a more elegant, agile and intellectually superior formalism and ideology thrive longer. The US constitution is one example. The basic credo of Islamism is also pretty agile and rugged -- though at a rather different level of the psycho-physical mind than the US constitution. The Shi'a conversion of Iran is another case in point - where several Sufi cults were already closet Shi'a and Persian nationalist. Shah Esma'il was himself influenced by one such sect and he emerged as the strong leader in step (2) and lead the Safavi takeover. The Indian constitution is also a very comprehensive document, but the dead weight of several provisions in it need to be done away with as their intended goals are met as per the Preamble. Religious and caste privileges and freedoms to politically organize on those lines and so forth are meant to create a unified nation as clearly stated in the Preamble. They were never intended to become permanent entitlements for the purpose of more and more vicious politics.

Then in step (2) one observes that certain movements found a core leadership that consolidated that formalized ideology, debated it within their own core and found themselves cordially on both sides of the aisle. Again the US is a good example with its founding fathers fleshing out their thoughts on democracy and the Publius papers, and occupying both sides of the aisle. Whereas other movements that were not able to maturely encompass two opposing viewpoints have run into historic problems. Islamism still suffers from the Shi'a-Sunni schism that has lead to chronic blood-letting for fourteen centuries. Does Hindutva have the philosophical caliber to speak from opposing viewpoints? Can Hindutva be all-encompassing? Is there even a credible Hindutva Left at this point, or is there likely to be one in the near future? Obviously, the Gujarat model of development cannot be replicated in all states and regions.

Next, in step (3) a new nationalism is given shape, as a collective aspiration and there is economic growth and removal of social evils. I think the USSR and to some extent the PRC had a good phase in this aspect, but because of a philosophically immature formalistic ideology and equally immature core leadership formative phases, they had/have problems. The US continued its colonial momentum and occupied the entire continent from coast to coast, practically finishing off the native races. Thereafter, its engagement with Japan and opening up the Far East is noteworthy, as is its competition with Hispanic and other colonial powers. In India there is a lot of confusion on this step -- about what exactly this national aspiration really is! At best, the only pride that has been inculcated revolves around the fact that India is more sane and morally superior to its neighbors, some of whom we have engaged with in war successfully.

Next, in point (4), the US went through an isolationist phase of consolidation. India has been Non-Aligned, and perhaps this may continue in the near future. It becomes nonsensical without a vigorous growth trajectory and future purpose. So this must go along with an upsurge in economic growth. China has used this step to compensate for its weaknesses in previous steps, and is surviving and doing better than India in many ways, even though India is stronger on some of the earlier steps.

In point (5), we see that many of the promised benefits in the US were realized at a popular level, in terms of standards of living and the American Dream. At this point the US is in step (6), and it remains to be seen whether the nation as a whole can have a cognition of the limitations of the current materialistic understanding of the "pursuit of happiness", and an agreement on a more balanced spiritual understanding of the term - a sane spirituality that avoids the pitfall of Christian fundamentalism or its theological quirks. If this cognition does not dawn on the nation, then as part of step (7) it will continue to get into deeper conflict in the world as it competes for energy resources or in Crusader terms, and there will be greater tensions outside as well as a widening income disparity within.

India is still in the early steps, but at a crucial juncture here. Clearly, future growth and direction is slacking, and it is because there is confusion about the national sense of purpose. The intent expressed in the Preamble has been betrayed by the Congress and the caste and communal political discourse it created. Its own leadership core has degenerated into a dynastic sycophancy. Hindutva has potential and some of its leaders are promising, but it remains to be seen if a mature and intellectually superior ideology can emerge and encompass both sides of the aisle. I believe the emergence of a credible Hindutva Left would be a sure sign of things changing, and notably stalwarts like K.N. Govindacharya walked out of the BJP over a decade ago and started work on this in earnest. Perhaps the cult of Hindutva needs to be revisited and certain cognitions to be gained.

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