May 23, 2013

Violence and Kshātra: War, Religion & Philosophy

The recent roadside butchery of a serviceman in Londonistan is a high-visibility, low-impact advertisement for jihad. It happens all the time in India. It can be thought-provoking, amusing and also chilling to observe the reactions within the Muslim community in the wake of every such incident.

It is familiar to hear the taqiyyah on TV of some Muslim representatives telling non-Muslims that 'jihad' is primarily an act of self-improvement or a struggle against social injustice, rather than an act of war or violence. But there are several other Muslim sheikhs, intellectuals and bloggers now emerging who are more frank and philosophically succinct in that jihad was indeed primarily defined as an act of battle. However, they still do draw a line between legitimate jihad and anarchist terrorism. E.g.:
Blog - The Humble "I"Terrorism is to Jihad as Adultery is to Marriage
In their everyday lives and drawing room discussions, the initial reaction is embarrassment, irritation or self-pity at the real or imagined stares and uncomfortable silences of colleagues at the workplace or fellow travelers on the metro or bus. There is some condemnation of the perps not being good Muslims. But when that starts happening, there is always the wise voice that reminds the gathering that according to the widespread interpretation of Islam even major sins do not constitute a breach of Iman (faith in the eyes of Allah), so one should not judge the perps on that count. Besides, the political cause brandished by the perps cannot be brushed away, one is reminded - the US has invaded Muslim countries.

In discussions that follow, many of those that initially condemn the perps then jump to the defence of the Saudis, who are not to be unfairly considered the prime petrodollar proliferators of these takfiri ideologies, but rather as those who support the schooling of the most hardened fighters in legitimate jihads such as the ongoing one in Syria, while dealing equally swiftly and mercilessly with anarchic criminals and terrorists. The discussion then veers around to how such criminals who bring Islam a bad name are affected by psychiatric illnesses.

My feeling is that while clinical or sub-clinical psychological problems may play a big part in such behaviors, the fact that such criminals seem to most easily find support for their paranoid schizophrenic tendencies in particular types of ideology is not being considered. For doctrinal adherents, the same ideology that famously breeds the most admirably hardened jihadis in West Asia, Af-Pak and Africa is not to be blamed if these lunatics misuse it. I've heard the analogy used: a good car cannot be blamed in an accident involving a crazy driver.

In their worldview, there are obvious injustices in the world, such as the West invading Muslim countries to exploit their resources. Therefore, a "complete system" covering all aspects of life must involve the use of violence and the priming of the mind to clinically execute acts of violence against an oppressor or anyone who displeases Allah. That the violent component of the philosophy is in the mould of a religion seems to be the hardiest, most viable, sleekest and most powerful solution to them, an unbeatable gift, and they frankly or secretly admire it and are proud of it. In fact, Napoleon and Hitler and many a military leader have recorded their secret admiration of Islam and its rugged utility, and wished they had such a system at their disposal in their nations. It does not strike its adherents as having any inherent problems whatsoever. The spartan warrior's religion, the prophet-king or his viceregent, these are romanticized. 

In this vein, a certain predominant cultural meme comes to the surface in Islamic society. It is a meme that is in every society including our own - but Islamic society is the only one to invest it with the crown of spiritual potential in a particular way... One therefore often sees Muslim youth, even in the West, become part of the subculture of War and Death that is anyway always there in the West. A sample:
Chris Hedges' "War is a force that gives us meaning"
 "Sarajevo in the summer of 1995 came close to Dante’s inner circle of hell. The city, surrounded by Serb gunners on the heights above, was subjected to hundreds of shells a day, all crashing into an area twice the size of Central Park. Ninety-millimeter tank rounds and blasts fired from huge 155-millimeter howitzers set up a deadly rhythm of detonations. 
Multiple Katyusha rockets – whooshing overhead – burst in rapid succession; they could take down a four- or five-story apartment building in seconds, killing or wounding everyone inside. There was no running water or electricity and little to eat; most people were subsisting on a bowl of soup a day. It was possible to enter the besieged city only by driving down a dirt track on Mount Igman, one stretch directly in the line of Serb fire. The vehicles that had failed to make it lay twisted and upended in the ravine below, at times with the charred remains of their human cargo inside.
Families lived huddled in basements, and mothers, who had to make a mad dash to the common water taps set up by the United Nations, faced an excruciating choice – whether to run through the streets with their children or leave them in a building that might be rubble when they returned.
The hurling bits of iron fragmentation from exploding shells left bodies mangled, dismembered, decapitated. The other reporters and I slipped and slid in the blood and entrails thrown out by the shell blasts, heard the groans of anguish, and were, for our pains, in the sights of Serb snipers, often just a few hundred yards away. The latest victims lay with gaping wounds untended in the corridors of the hospitals that lacked antibiotics and painkillers. 
When the cease-fires broke down, there would be four to five dead a day, and a dozen wounded. It was a roulette wheel of death, a wheel of fire that knew no distinctions of rank or nationality.  
By that summer, after nearly four years of fighting, forty-five foreign reporters had been killed, scores wounded. I lived – sheltered in a side room in the Holiday Inn, its front smashed and battered by shellfire – in a world bent on self-destruction,a world where lives were snuffed out at random.
I learned early on that war forms its own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by mythmakers, historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state – all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty. It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it, even humor, which becomes preoccupied with the grim perversities of smut and death.  
Fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths.  
War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many war is so hard to discuss once it is over. 
The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when
we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves.  
And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. And those who have the least meaning in their lives, the impoverished refugees in Gaza, the disenfranchised North African immigrants in France, even the legions of young who live in the splendid indolence and safety of the industrialized world, are susceptible to war’s appeal.
That subculture of Death, whether it expresses itself as a fascination with arms, or a Goth fad, is present in all human societies, more in some than in others. But rarely does it find itself as the crowning jewel of religious faith. This is even stronger than other ideologies such as Communism that have also traditionally glorified bloody guerrilla tactics and terror.

In my humble opinion, if the philosophical consideration of violence were truly defensive in spirit, or as a creative destruction and a means to an end, it would never be cast in the mould of religion itself - such as the jihadi meme. Rather, the comprehensive philosophical justification of violence would probably be cast in the mould of a fight against precisely such a cult of glorified and religiously directed violence or domination. To quote the famous mantra:
॥ 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
It appears that the fundamentalism of each viewpoint on violence could be rooted in different spheres. Violence (and sex) are forces that contain information that most humans cannot consciously process. To overlay that with the significance of religious commandment is dicey, so the fundamentals are key. Recently a friend pointed out (BRF):
Modern brain research shows there are three layers of the brain: reptilian, middle and neocortex and reflect evolution. The reptilian brain is the one that provides the auto responses and the neocortex all the pleasant high thinking that allows human society to develop and prosper. A religious "philosophy" that is plugged into the wellsprings of violence is fashioned for the reptilian brain and reinforces the auto responses of hostility.
The world renowned neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, who also shares an interest in different classes of religious experience, wrote a book "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's quest for what makes us human" (PDF here), which is also a good read in this regard.

There are strong indications of this link between jihadism and brain function. Sometimes this 'reptilian' limbic brain is channeled for purposes of law and order-and-consolidation, and at other times it is channeled for purposes of aggression-without-reservation. It manifests itself in the bedroom as on the battlefield. Consider this revelation in the Qur'an about how a man should respond to his wife if they get into a disagreement -
Qur'an 4:34 (link) - "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great."
The part in italics is what happens between dysfunctional couples from a particular strata of society anyway (more widespread in certain cultures). If they get into a disagreement, the husband first "admonishes" her. If she remains stubborn, they probably withdraw sexually and become silently hostile for a while. If it gets nasty, then it comes down to physical abuse ('fighting and fucking' syndrome). Numerous such cases are found in any society. This, then, is Allah's revelation in the Qur'an. One could say that it is a civilizing guideline - not to beat her right away, but to first admonish, then stop sleeping with her, and use physical intimidation as a last resort, and to forgive and reconcile if she surrenders, rather than seek divorce prematurely. But still this civilizing force doesn't rise above the basic idea of male possession and authority over the female, or the right to use physical intimidation. This equation is only one cultural mode of male-female relationships, a caveman ethic which has its legitimate place and attraction in the larger scheme of things. It is an integral part of the relationship, but one doesn't find the other, liberal modes of this relationship discussed adequately in the Qur'an. It is true that Islamic law and subsidiary literature is full of exhortations to kindness towards ones spouse, the joys of marriage, etc., but they all have as the background this basic tone. Therefore, it is possible to say that the Qur'an dwells mostly on one brain mode of thought, relationship and action. That mode has its own validity, but when it is not balanced out by comprehensive discussion on other modes, then it is very problematic.

To extend the brain analogy: When something is cast in the mould of the reptilian brain, the person identifies with it possessively. It becomes the end, not the means. It produces irrational not rational thought. It is no longer "philosophical" even if specious arguments are used to show how there is obvious justification for its form and action. Even when those motivator justifications are no longer there in the environment, they will be manufactured. Thus, there is an undercurrent of either provocation or reaction.

In the above Vedic mantra on dharma-yuddha to make the universe Arya (noble), it is the mobilized mass of "non-liberal" elves-turned-orcs that is sought to be fought and civilized. Here also there is reaction involved, no doubt, but it is not provocative in the same way as a cult of violence. It is a war meme, no doubt, but the difference is subtle. It is the difference between the Sikh Khalsa and Aurangzeb's forces. A post from another blog on this mantra:
Blog: Kal Chiron: "कृण्वन्तो विश्वं आर्यं " - Civilize the world - In what context?
The Vedic idea of war is truly philosophical, rather than religious and pseudo-philosophical. Because the Veda has a prominent line of thought against the Dasyu-Dāsa combine that generates illiberal tendencies in society as a means of control and expansion of political power. This has been blogged here earlier [The Dasyu-Dāsa dynamic vs. "class struggle" theory]. A friend pointed out (BRF):
Even if one observes these traits to be common in Islamic society, one should still give credit to Islam that it has mastered the reptilian brain behavior and made a science out of it, and learned how to both bolster it as well as how to channelize it. The elites in Islamic societies often use it to their political ends. 
This mastery however shows a neo-cortical behavior. 
So even if an individual or most individuals in Islamic societies may display reptilian brain behavior, at the forest level, there are cold calculations.
It must be recognized that the religious commandment-philosophy of jihad is a very refined tool, indeed. It is not merely a childish, "irrational" eccentricity. Communist anarchists have a secret admiration for the ability of Islamist elites to mobilize "Koran rage" demonstrations across the planet. As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said, "If one can ride the Ego like a well-trained and blinkered horse, one will reach the goal very swiftly."

And that is true. But it is the other ingredients of training and of being human that make the difference between whether one is riding a horse or a tiger. Separating the means and the end is a big part of sanity. If Service is the end, then Conflict is only a means. In terms of varna, the kshatriya must always be trained to be strictly subordinate to the brāhmana limb of consciousness or society; never the other way around.

As per Swami Dayananda Saraswati's commentary (Arya Samaj), the Vedas say that a Complete Man (Arya) is one who has the following abilities:
1. Domesticate animals (and the animal within) to perform constructive works for nation-building,
2. Cook a delicious meal from a balanced assortment of natural ingredients for a mainly lacto-vegetarian diet,
3. Use weapons expertly in battle - not in rage, but channeled with the clinical intention of killing or repulsing the enemy who hates him,
4. Know the science and art of music, especially for Vedic chants.

Personally, I'm almost there - I've been domesticated by women, I love honoring a well-cooked meal, I get an adrenaline rush just by watching martial arts on TV, and I prefer music to white noise any day.

May 17, 2013

Priest-craft: Managed solutions vs. Unmanaged customizations

The name and signature of any particular element is of primary importance in changing a cultural, psychological or technical system. For instance, these days the main problem in discussing Indian religious and secular culture is semantic confusion. Terms like "religion" are used from a purely Christo-Islamic perspective, rather than understood from within the 'pagan' Indic context. 'Hinduism' is called a "religion" by secularists, and 'Hindutva' fundamentalism is compared to Islamic fundamentalism. This is ludicrous. Similarly, within the cacophony of 'Hindutva' aspirants, many do conflate reinforcement of tradition with an all-inclusive eternal philosophy, thus justifying the reservations some opponents may have. [See 'Triangulating Hindutva: The Fundamentalist, Reformist & Traditionalist'].

Two kinds of dharmas - faith-based and ethics-based
There are two main categories of Dharma (broadly, Ethics). In its most comprehensive and truly universal sense, it is One Sanatana Dharma (eternal Dharma), or the Philosophia Perennis that Western philosophers have tried to discern. Then there are the several dharmic applications that are bound by purpose, culture, etc.

Among these applied dharmas, there are again two types - those dharmas that are received as "managed" solutions for the individual or a society, and those that are received as "unmanaged" solutions for the individual or society. This blogpost focuses on these two.

Consider an analogy that is applicable to, both, the individual as well as a society. The figure below describes an operating environment. Its substrate is an operating system that provides an unlimited set of resources, mapping logics, etc. But at the very top, the actual observed behaviour only reflects that part of this fundamental system that is allowed to shine through. Even those parts that are allowed to shine through may be intercepted and over-ridden. Most other aspects may be suppressed, or masked.

Between this fundamental operating substrate and the externally observed behaviour lie solutions that have been installed in the environment. There are Managed solutions (A and B) and Unmanaged customizations (C and D). Each of these either masks or modifies certain inherent, pre-existing elements of the system.

Unmanaged Customizations
When elements are deployed using an Unmanaged solution, the effects deployed over-write (not merely over-ride) any previous effects of the same name and signature within the environment.

Secondly, after deployment it is as if the initial solution's "wrapper" is of no consequence. It is discarded and the bundle of contents simply becomes part of the native environment and reacts with it like a solute does with a solvent. 

In this way, the contents forever become part and parcel of that environment - they can never be deleted as a finite package of elements, but their net effect can be over-written or transformed based on future additions and reactions. 

Since it over-writes (not over-rides) an element, the only way to restore that element to its pre-customized state would be to somehow re-connect with the fundamental systemic substrate wherever it may be accessible, query it, and then duplicate the desired element in the environment via a new Unmanaged customization.

Managed Solutions
When a bundle of elements is deployed using a Managed solution, then post-deployment it remains in its "wrapper", insulated from the native context of the environment it is deployed in. It seeks to stay as a bundle within its own bubble context, and duplicate its effects as is, rather than by adding to the net effect of the native environment. It uses the native environment's resources for its own operation, giving back only its intended effects to change the native environment.

Any chance interaction with the native environment through a hole in the wrapper can cause Byzantine behaviour requiring troubleshooting. 

It over-rides (not over-writes) any corresponding elements of the same name and signature of past solutions, by superimposing its own effects as is. Only those effects of a past managed solution continue to shine through that are not explicitly over-ridden within the new managed solution. 

If the managed solution is deleted then all its effects are deleted as if it were never there. Any effects of underlying system or older managed solutions then reappear in Application Behaviour (without having to reconnect or deploy another solution).

Another thing about Managed solutions is that they always need the external vendor (who built it) or his explicit legatee for any issue that crops up - hence it is called a 'Managed' solution. If the contract and dependency on the external vendor is broken, then the managed solution could stall and not yield any effects, or even create problems with no one to make even a show of troubleshooting. A period of such chronic misbehaviour ought to be a justifiable case for deleting it (or at least removing the wrapper and converting it into an Unmanaged solution). But hostile priesthoods and selfish anti-national politicians have a vested interest in reinforcing the wrapper by reinforcing isolation (ghettoization or caste-exclusivity) and contracting out to an elite core group.

Dharman and Brahman
Dharman is an Unmanaged Way to deploy different selected potentials of Brahman. Therefore in the Bharata culture, discussion of Dharman is anterior to Brahman. The human body and its cultural symbiotes are like the wrapper needed for the potentials to be deployed, and thereafter is of no karmic consequence to the actual realization of the potentials. Whereas in non-Dharmic "religions", the Brahmanic potentials are sought to be deployed without the context of Dharma, and therefore are deployed as managed solutions, in which the integrity of the wrapper is very important for predictable behaviour. Even without a hierarchical priesthood, when such non-Dharmic religions deploy themselves as a franchised network, their ideological integrity and sanctity of their idolized scriptures of personalities is of critical importance to their survival. Whereas in a Dharmic pantha those are only via media, intrinsic but not critical, because of the constant awareness of the Perennial Philosophy that is the real substrate, rather than obsession with a particular historical time, place, form or event.

The Wrapper
Where the wrapper is considered fundamental, there karma is cumulative - whether it is good karma or bad karma. 'Wrapper' can be a particular book, personality cult, organizational hierarchy, caste system, etc. When the wrapper is not considered fundamental in an Unmanaged customization, there karma is being changed directly - either rightly or dangerously, depending on the contents deployed and the state of the context.

Tone of the Context
Lastly, it would be an omission to not acknowledge that if the environmental context itself comes alive and becomes an active participant in the process rather than merely a passive recipient, that is a real game-changer. If people spilled out onto the streets, beside themselves with humble joy and creative enthusiasm, it is a game-changer. Similarly, if bloody revolution and conspiracy is in the air, that is also a game-changer - and then it doesn't matter if the society is moving towards "democracy", because certain types of forces will win power anyway.

Priests, Politicians and Wizards
Clearly, one way the effects of a Managed Solution can be masked is by inventing and deploying another managed solution that hides and overrides it, element for element. But this is playing the same faith game, and susceptible to the same limitations as the problematic Managed solution. If the new managed solution is deleted then the older managed solution's effects again reappear. A cult that is tightly controlled by a priesthood can be deprogrammed much more easily than an ideology that survives as a franchised network that injects itself culturally into the mainstream discourse. 

The other way to block its effects is to deploy new behaviors via an Unmanaged solution, which would have the effect of modifying the mainstream discourse itself in a way that inoculates it from evil invasion.

Using Managed solutions to modify and correct the evil effects of older Managed solutions is a typical dialectic process - it is unidirectional and can only move forward without ever regaining original virginity. 

Using Unmanaged customization is double-edged - it depends on what is being injected into the mainstream, and whether there exists a real, live channel of communication with the fundamental substrate. Only that live channel can ensure right customization at any stage.

This is the task that must be accomplished by the interplay between a nation's governing Constitution, its public discourse (education, media, etc.) and religious movements.

At different points in the last 1400 years, the local System Administrators have cooperated in the deployment of different modules of certain Managed solutions that seek to suppress or exploit the native environment. Feudal Casteism, Islam, Christianity and now pseudo-secularist Marxism are cases in point. One finds that the priest-hoods controlling these Managed solutions jockey with rival priesthoods in a mutually convenient musical chairs, as long as the environment isn't fundamentally altered.

One had to then find another Managed Solution B for the initial Managed Solution A, that changed 'A' just enough that an Unmanaged Solution strategy could be used later on. This is what several Indian social, political and religious reformers initiated over the last few centuries.

Thus, Dharma-friendly Managed solutions do need to be crafted in order to "contain" the more harmful and invasive effects of the exploitative Managed solution -- but only as a stop gap measure before all are deleted and the system is reset via an Unmanaged refurbishment. That deletion can safely be undertaken only after an Unmanaged component can be deployed that has a live connection with the fundamental substrate. E.g. Cloud Resource in the diagram above.

Buddhism itself was an attempt to reconnect with the fundamentals and reset the environment - but when Buddhism itself became a Managed solution and the sangha wrapper assumed ascendancy in league with mercantile or government interests, it only served to deracinate existing religious applications, without following it up with reinvigorating the fundamentals and re-aligning with Veda. I believe this happened partly because the tone of the environmental context was not optimal for the kind of discourse that could lead to real change; rather, it caused conservatism even when there was desire for political peace in the post-Ashokan period.

Secularism and Paganism
One can observe the operation of different memes based on how they were deployed, and the historical order in which they were deployed. India as a civilization is "wounded", i.e., it still retains its fundamental operating basis to a large extent, but has borne the brunt of every possible effort and stratagem to destroy that basis. Other civilizations are twice-deracinated - their fundamental operating basis has been ruthlessly destroyed by one Managed Solution and its Unmanaged counterparts, and then they have suffered a second round of the same. E.g., Russia and generally the Slavic nations were first deracinated by Christianity, and then by Communism. When Communism was deleted, the Church re-surfaced to some extent (modified by the mainstream discourse). The Islamic world is once deracinated, while within it subcultures like Persia are twice deracinated like Slavic nations. With the West the situation is still different for reasons of political economy, and there are ambiguous attempts to try to dissolve Christianity as an Unmanaged solution within its secular context. In each case, the solutions to return to a holistic state will be slightly different. In all cases, a return to secularism, or I daresay paganism, are important. In the case of India, this is important to consider as an advantage and a repository. Paganism is essentially the name given by hostile Managed solutions to native host environments.

Administrative Policy
Practically speaking, how to engineer the optimal dynamics between Managed and Unmanaged solution? Simply by preventing or countering the necessary things that a wrapped, bundled and strings-tied managed solution needs to deploy and survive. In this regard, the "neti neti" process is relevant in terms of self-definition, as an individual or as a civilization.

It would then be an interesting exercise to jot down how governmental policy can incorporate Dharmic ethics by being an able System Administrator with sound policy on the kinds of Managed and Unmanaged solutions that can be deployed in the system, as well as the relative order in which they are deployed.

As a guideline, a truly secular government cannot extend active support to Managed solutions, though it may have a policy of, say, incentivizing faith-based initiatives applicable to all. However, the government can actively ensure that all Managed solutions have a level playing field. Native Managed solutions must be protected from Managed solutions with wealthy and powerful foreign vendors and priesthoods. E.g., a principle of reciprocity can be introduced - if your country will not allow XYZ to be deployed in your environment, we cannot allow you to sponsor the deployment of ABC in our environment. Or, a low ceiling on foreign-funding to NGO's active in deployment of Managed solutions can be set by governmental policy.

However, a truly secular government can and must define its value system in Dharmic terms, in terms of its overall worldview. This worldview has, for instance, been talked about at length by India's Constitutional fathers such as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The revitalization of certain Dharmic memes in the mainstream are an important part of this. E.g., Dr. Ambedkar was a vigorous advocate of Sanskritization. [See 'Sanskrit 2.0 and Diversity Policy - 1'].

The government also has a responsibility to ensure that the 'PH value' of the Indic solvent remains Dharmic. That means not just in name but in actual values. Practically, that means that all pseudo-'Dharmic' impostor memes in our society need to be broken down, especially when they have outlasted their legitimate purpose and usefulness. That means any structures or forms that are obsessed with reinforcing the need for their "wrapper" - the fixed integrity of their priesthood, bodies and cultural exclusivity based on being legatees of some past vendor.

Rushdie and Naipaul
Salman Rushdie says regarding his transforming relationship with Muslim culture in the Subcontinent and Pakistan in particular, in his novel Shame: “I tell myself this will be a novel of leavetaking, my last words on the East from which, many years ago, I began to come loose […] It is part of the world to which, whether I like it or not, I am still joined, if only by elastic bands.” This mirrors the condition of Western 'secularism' and its relationship with Christianity. Many Indians from different communities would echo the same sentiment to some extent or another. On the other hand, V.S. Naipaul calls India a wounded civilization and wants to heal a historical wrong while criticizing the agencies of those crimes. A comprehensive Dharmic secularism should encompass both these good aspirations within a larger process.

Indian secularism does need some Modi-fication. A truly Secular Government would not discriminate based (primarily) on belief-system, but rather on its ethical effect in the environment. In other words, government should not practice मतभेद but rather धर्मविवेक. Secondly, government does this not by fiat, but by coordinating with grassroots Dharmic organizations and by stakeholders in the national discourse under an overarching constitutional framework.

The upshot of this is that no belief-system can consider itself immune to criticism or questioning, either in terms of its beliefs or the actions and opinions of its people.

May 8, 2013

Triangulating Hindutva: The Fundamentalist, Reformist & Traditionalist

Some lessons can be learned from the electoral loss in Karnataka for forces purporting to represent 'Hindutva'. The loss of bastions like Mangalore is attributed by some to the foolhardiness of those leaders who reduced 'Hindutva' to moral policing and protecting old superstitions in the name of tradition.

It is also immediately relevant to point out that a slap in the face of 'traditionalist' activism is by no means equivalent to a defeat for 'Hindutva', but is rather a very welcome shift for its most dynamic vectors at the present time. Consider this post on another blog:
Kal Chiron's Blog: Rise of Narendra Modi - Return of Savarkar's stream of thought?
Time-binding Hindutva
It is not the place of 'traditionalists' to lead anything or set the tone for a movement like Hindutva. But they must always be carried along and their proper place is to act as strong 'buffers' to channel the stream, delineate its survival routes, and assert its beingness - Asmita. But it is the 'fundamentalists' who must lead Hindutva, intellectually as well as in terms of setting its social programme.

Without trying to pigeonhole any individual as a 'traditionalist', 'fundamentalist' or 'reformist', how can we define these terms in a schema of form and substance? A friend suggested (at BRF):

There are of course "traditionalists" who like to retain all the evolutionary changes that have taken place in their ideological framework over the years as well as in its implementation in society! Then there are "reformists" who accept the religious framework as it stands but say that the society should deprecate certain practices, making them congruent with current thinking on ethics. Then there are "secularists" who cannot wait to throw off their religion underpinning their civilization for a variety of reasons, shame for it being one of them, atheism another.  
... What about "fundamentalists"? Considering that Sanatan Dharma goes back to the dawn of human civilization itself, that kind of fundamentalism would mean reaching quite a bit back. It is going back to the Rishis themselves, and to try to understand their message! ... "Fundamentalism" on [any] issue however need not detract from the fact that one can still remain a traditionalist as far as culture, rituals and other spiritual and philosophical endeavors are concerned.
Unlike other species, General Semantics considers the human being to be a time-binding organism, i.e., humans transmit experience cumulatively from one generation to another, usually via symbols. Knowledge regarding material form and method is constantly to be revised and changing in present time, flowing eternally like a torrent (प्रवाहतः अनादि). Knowledge regarding spiritual principles is eternally unchanging and inherent in all 'being' and 'becoming' (कूटस्थ अनादि). When both are transmitted together, then the integrity of Dharma and her civilization is maintained.

Experience that is transmitted down generations is called Agama (आगम) in Sanskrit. The foregoing description of 'fundamentalists', 'reformists' and 'traditionalists' (apart from 'rejectionists'/'secularists') reminds one of the classification of Agama according to the Vaikhanasa and Pancharatra schools of the orthodox Vaishnavas. the Pancharatra says that Agamas are handed down in 3 forms:

1. दिव्य - Divine: Directly revealed by the Lord of all Mankind, Narayana, to Mankind via the Rishis.
2. मुनिभाषित - Spoken to Sages: Handed down and interpreted by the self-realized philosophers of different schools at different times, places and for different levels of cultural maturity.
3. आप्तमनुजप्रोक्त - Spoken by reliable and authentic persons: This has been written down and transmitted by individuals deemed trustworthy by virtue of their ethical character, intellectual acumen, clarity of memory, etc.

The first can be considered the fundamentals, such as the Veda. The fundamentalist harks back to those rudiments via meditation and epiphany. The second can be considered the speculative exegesis, such as the Upanishads and their extensions in the smritis. The reformist engages in this search as a process of managing the house politically at all times. The third can be considered pure traditionalism, which limits itself to duplication and admiration of what is written in the 'shastras' that were written at one time in pursuance of an Upanishadic method.

First Formalism, then Propaganda
In my humble opinion, as a precursor to propaganda, there is a need to create a greater awareness of a core ideological formalism of a high standard for Hindutva that can hold its own against any ideological adversary. Up until now, Hindutva ideologies have been individually propagated by fundamentalists (e.g., Swami Dayananda Saraswati), by reformists (e.g., Swami Vivekananda), or by traditionalists (e.g., Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). Each one of these tried to subsume or derogate the other strands in order to mobilize certain sections of society that were ripe for their propaganda focus. The political philosophers of Hindutva, such as Sitaram Goel, Ram Swarup, the RSS ideologues, Savarkar, etc. must be extended in order to do a sound job of consolidating and managing these strands, which can sometimes appear divergent and sometimes complementary. It would help the general awareness of all proponents of Hindutva as well as its opponents, to have a clear picture of the political schema into which all these tendencies find a coherent place.

Good and Bad Fundamentalists - Context dependent
Unlike Abrahamic cultures (esp. Islam), in the Hindutva context, the 'fundamentalists' are best suited to define the mainstream public and political discourse of the civilization, because of its yogic rudiments and fundamentally liberal undercurrents. Whereas the 'traditionalists' are best suited in defining the extremes and populating the margins, and therefore its outer contours and different stages and schools of its spiritual  process. (For a schema of 'balance' verses unbalanced phases of growth, see previous blogpost: 'Can Hindutva do Yoga?')

Notice that the reverse is true in the context of non-Dharmic societies. E.g., in Abrahamic cultures, it is in the interest of sanity that the 'fundamentalists' are marginalized and not allowed to dominate the mainstream discourse or establish a rule by religious law. Because that will read to violent radicalization. (To some extent that is true of non-Vedic Dharmic religions also, such as Jainism, Buddhism, etc., though here the radicalization is non-violent and of abnegation.) In such cases, the 'reformists' or so-called 'moderates' must be helped to hold that fort, and the 'traditionalists' may be corralled into religious institutions that serve society. 'Secularism' may be encouraged as a temporary bridge to moving away from a deracinated, exclusivist cultism and discovering Dharma (via any of the 3 co-ordinates).

This is simply because there is a difference in the 'fundamentals' of the Vedic and non-Vedic, or more generally of the Dharmic and non-Dharmic. In Abrahamic societies, the irrational and violent 'right-wing' draws on scripture and the associated excitement of reliving the lives of its traditional exemplars, whereas the reasonable and pacifist left-wing appeals to rationalism, compassion, balance, etc. But it is seen that in Dharmic societies, the progressive, pacifist and reasonable leaders who advocate 'balance' typically draw on scripture and the religious exemplars, whereas the right-wingers appeal to a sense of outrage, national emergency, some grievance, or the need to preserve old traditional forms in this so-called 'Kaliyuga'. (This includes Lankan Buddhist extremist clergy or Dharmic clergy anywhere else).

But 'Hindutva' is best interpreted entirely in present time, from its rudiments, and taking all modern and existing currents in its sweep. It must also be open-ended, and not succumb to "definitions" demanded or imposed by others. Its programme should be to complete all incomplete civilizational iterations and strengthen the earlier fundamental iterations. (See previous blogpost on civilizational iterations: 'Identity and Learning: Worlds within worlds')

The Parting of the Waters 
It may be significant that the encrustation of the 'traditionalist' constituency for 'Hindutva' has received a well-deserved setback, opening the way for the 'fundamentalists' and 'reformist' vectors to take control at this point. Meanwhile, the Congress and its casteist litter find themselves increasingly veering towards the extremely shrill "secularist" or "rejectionist" end - a prelude to their ultimate irrelevance or subsumation within a Dharmic viewpoint. Could this polarization of extremes and their insanities be clearing a passage for the sane but strong Vedic fundamentalists to lead the wandering Bharatas across to their native land?

May 7, 2013

Subsume all their Shibboleths

In an intellectual competition, the goal is not just to find truth, but also to achieve certain political aims, such as winning over another person's mind and heart, or splitting the opposition and putting them at cross-purposes. In comparing two ideas, how does one not get caught in a false dichotomy? The practice of purva-paksha is healthy and encourages a shift in the learner's understanding - but it is not immune to false dichotomy, and a siddhanta that is in contradiction to its Other is not an uncommon outcome. That could leave the Other just where it is, without winning it over and putting it into a new perspective as part of the Self.

The dialectic process is not immune to false dichotomies because of the way false data works within the psyche. As indicated in an earlier blogpost 'Psychohistory vs. Dumb Dialectics': "It is an epistemological observation that if the human mind is first possessed of an untruth, and is then confronted with a truer piece of data (true w.r.t the self), then it first rejects the new data via a process of Othering. Any synthesis subsequently formed is of less truth value than the newly introduced data, though it may be better than the untrue figment that was used as the starting point."

Therefore, first of all there is a necessity for a sound epistemic technique to strip false data as a prerequisite to a selection of importances from a stream of data. If I understand correctly, the purva-paksha offered in the formative phases of the 'Hindutva' worldview by thinkers such as Rajiv Malhotra ji are such an attempt at stripping false data, mostly by a process of Othering, and by working at the points of greatest strain or inability in the body politic. 

Not unexpectedly, one finds that carping "intellectuals" like to point out that this process of Othering is rather divisive. They fail to take a process view of things, and want to pigeonhole 'Hindutva' into a 'rightist' or 'leftist' paradigm upon arrival. This is rather silly, considering the vast and deep tradition that 'Hindutva' seeks to serve. 'Hindutva' as a relative of the word 'Sindhu' itself means oceanic. And its seed is 'Veda' - knowingness.

So then, what sort of cognition does Veda look forward to as a desirable outcome of contemplation? Agni (Fire) is the "first among worshipables", the first among the 33 Divinities, the "One who gathers all the others." In RigVeda 1.1.4 we find as per Swami Dayananda Saraswati's translation and interpretation:

"O Agni, only that sacrifice goes to the Divinities which is of knowledge that you have encompassed on all sides and pervaded through and through, after it is free of schism and contradiction."
One operative word in the above mantra is vishwa-taH, signifying a universality that encompasses the world of knowledge. Therefore, a false knowingness that sets up one "truer" or "greater" fetish to loom over another token idea is in itself in violent opposition and contradiction to the Other - even if it shows itself to be complete and consistent in itself, on its own arbitrary self-referential authority. Such would not be a sacrifice of knowledge fit to reach the Gods. It may be eulogized in the puerile antics between idol-breaker and idol-maker, nothing more. 

These themselves may be incomplete phases in a process (for there is nothing inherently wrong with violence), but usually they aren't. A stellar example of when it is the case would be that of Bhai Kanhaiya, disciple of Guru Tegh Bahadur. On the battlefield at Anandpur Sahib, he would fight against the Islamists, and then walk around serving water to the thirsty among the wounded and the dying. It dismayed many of his fellow-disciples that he was serving water to enemy wounded as much as to his own. When they reported this to the Guru, he smiled approvingly, for he must have known that his sacrifice was reaching the Divinities and wasn't merely a fratricidal orgy between earthlings. Brother Kanhaiya simply said in his defence that he saw his Guru's light reflected in every fallen soldier, enemy or his own. History is witness that Brother Kanhaiya's goat-skin water-pouch probably did more to establish the line between Dharma and Adharma that day than did his sword. 

But intellectually, in terms of logic, how does one describe this universalism better? After first stripping false data via Othering followed by a relentless criticism of its hypocrisies, one must then subsume its remaining truth into one's own siddhanta. This can be done by demonstrating how what is true in it is a special case of one's own model, which is free from its limitations. An example would be how Einstein's theory of Relativity can show that Newtonian mechanics are a special case of its own equations at speeds much slower than the speed of light.

The universalism of the Veda is truly an intellectual universalism, while a subjective affective adherence to a token is a matter of free choice and personal preference (ishta). Whereas the much-touted "universalism" of the Abrahamic systems is actually a totalitarianism.

If Hindutva has to truly evolve and occupy both sides of the aisle, then it has to develop coherence in its worldview - so that there is only a soft diversity between its opposing parties rather than a hard diversity that threatens the affinity and integrity of its civilization. Even the founding fathers of the United States had envisioned only a soft diversity as beneficial, rather than a hard one.

As an example, I would take this excellent blogpost at Indosphere: Rejecting the Dialectic of Western Materialism. In it, the author exposes the historical origins of the favourite shibboleths and obsessions of different strands of Western political and social philosophy, and rejects them as the neuroses they truly are. He then rejects the silly and typical attempts by the Other (including Oxfart-educated Indians who are more-or-less deracinated from Hindu civilization) to label or force-fit Indic philosophical or political movements into this Western framework:

I would caution very strongly against applying such categories as "Capitalist", "Socialist", "Liberal", or even "Right-wing" and "Left-wing" to anything within the Indian system. Not just because they are foreign, but because the very assumptions from which these classifications derive are completely disjointed from an Indian worldview. 
For example, there is a pernicious idea that the traditional Vaishya Dharma, or the relationship of Indian mercantile classes to wealth, is essentially "capitalist." This could not be further from the truth. "Capitalism" is a form of sophistry developed by the apologist Adam Smith to philosophically justify the accumulation of wealth as a natural outcome of Protestant work ethic, in the face of pre-existing memes in Western materialism that glorified poverty. Socialism is a response to Capitalism that re-establishes the glorification of poverty without the earlier tone of overt religiosity. This entire back-and-forth proceeds across a playing field whose geography is dictated by the contours of Western Materialism. The precepts of Western Materialism themselves could not be further removed from the way in which Vaishya Dharma regards the concepts of wealth and prosperity. 
Indian Vaishya Dharma is nothing at all like Capitalism, because in our view, the accumulation of wealth is itself a task consonant with divinity; there is no sophistry required, and nothing to apologize for. To cast one thing in the mold of the other, is like asking Pt. Bhimsen Joshi to sing Raga Maalkauns in "F sharp minor, allegro moderato". It's meaningless.

This is an excellent method to put the Other's affective obsessions in their right place, and then introduce a cleaner, more refined terminology in Sanskrit to put an area of life and living in perspective. 

Further, in order to round off that argument, I would add the following to show that the sentiment of compassion and charity, as well as the glorification of poverty does find a place within the Indosphere, though in a far more well-rounded context. One point that occurred to me was that the Indic philosophical eye (i.e., jyotisha) also does include in its field of vision a "daridra-yoga" case which can be dovetailed via spiritual method to draw closer to God. In this conjunction of karma and circumstance, poverty or deprivation can also be meaningfully dovetailed to draw closer to God. E.g., the Sudama-Krishna relationship. Even here there is fulfillment in the Lord via charity, and Sudama drew closer to the Lord via poverty - though not by glorification of it but by embarrassment and humility.

By showing the Libtards, Maovadis and Macaulayputras that their classifications are included as special cases within a larger, more intellectually and spiritually fulfilling paradigm, one is more likely to win over converts. Apart from defectors, one would also be able to bracket and broadside the bigoted and the prostituted among them, for they may globetrot as much as their patrons can afford, but they won't find a concept to cover their intellectual poverty with. Therefore, one must surround them on all sides and encompass them wholly so they have nothing to hide behind. Subsume all their shibboleths.