Feb 21, 2014

Varnashrama: Between Method & Madness

Ideological & political approaches should balance and combine emotion and intellect. Politics based purely on the philosophy of "Its the economy, stupid" is less reliable than fiat currency. Politics based purely on primitive emotion is a compelling example for human devolution.

Discussing Judaism, Christianity and Islam in contrast with Indic religions, a friend suggested: "Founding roots of Abrahamic [religion] is the ill-digested follow-on from Krishna's battlefield Bhagavat stressing the personal-relationship with humanoid 'God' but minus the understanding of karma and re/incarnation." Regardless of whether the distinction holds in general, here are some preliminary considerations on the difference between Vedic and non-Vedic ideological approaches to civilization:

Aitareya Aranyaka, 3.2.3 says: "एष पन्था एष कर्मैतत् सत्यम् एतं वायौ ।" - "He is the Path(s), the Way/Method, the Truth, (in) the Life (life force)."

This is almost verbatim to Jesus' famous words, "I am the Way, the Truth, the Life...".

Similarly, in the Isha Upanishad, and in various variations in many other Hindu texts we find the phrases like "सो sह्म्" - "I am He/That". And "यो sसावसौ पूरुषः सो sहमस्मि ।" - "The He that is that Person, He is I". Again, apparently from the same loom as Jesus' words "I am that 'I am'".

Jesus is supposed to be the firstborn son of God, born from the very body of God, and non-different from Him. Similarly, in Hinduism, Brahma, the Creator, is born from the body of Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, and is the very first emanation born directly from Him.

If you look for any of Jesus' cryptic words and instructions in the Vedas, Aranyakas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, and Puranas, you will find all of them directly in them. Typically fleshed out copiously and in a far richer context in all cases.

Those words and descriptions and their contexts have been there in the Vedas and its literature before Christianity, before the recorded history of Judaism.

Those words were also understood very differently by the Hindus and other Vedic peoples for tens of thousands of years.

There is no dearth of exclusive devotion to God in a henotheistic or monotheistic way in Hinduism.

But it is still very different from the alleged monotheism of Christianity or Islam.

I trust it will be as fascinating to you to explore this crucial difference, as it has been for me.

Vedic and non-Vedic religion: A matter of epistemology

1. The map is not the territory.

  • When parts of a map are described, it does not actually describe the real territory. 
  • The material sense perceptions are like a lower-order map of a higher order reality. 
  • Moreover, in a holonymic semantic model of the universe (or multiverse), the actual territory also contains a map of itself in some part of itself. So the whole is made up of its parts (easy to understand), but each part also contains the whole within it, recursively. 
  • Optimal perception and observation of reality requires "objective silence" and cannot be achieved by mere intensional or extensional paradigms of analysis.
  • Faith with understanding and works determine Karma. "Surrender with intelligence", not "surrender your intelligence".
Mobius' transformations nicely depicts it mathematically:

A non-Vedic philosophy or religion does not distinguish between the synecdoche and metaphor of scriptural word-maps, and the reality of the process. It does not distinguish between the addictive effects of psycho-physical 'feelings' and 'emotions' and the reality of psycho-spiritual mellows. It does not have a holonymic semantic, but rather is limited to a purely associative semantic logic. It is entangled in intensional or extensional ideologies, far removed from objective silence. It eventually devolves to faith at the cost of either understanding or works.

2. Time has a linear as well as cyclic component.

  • A psycho-spiritual model must account for regressive as well as progressive movement along the psychological time-track as viewed by the individual. 
  • 'Sacred' and 'classical' values must be balanced in combination.
  • The individual spiritually involves and evolves cyclically only via numerous 'births' and 'deaths' - psychological and physical.
  • There is no scarcity of physical bodies - yet Life is precious.
  • See also: Priestcraft: Managed Solutions versus Unmanaged Customizations

A non-Vedic philosophy or religion is based on a predominantly linear concept of time. Moreover, it is riddled with obligatory introjections that cause the adherent to, well, adhere fixedly to some particular point on the time-track - such as an obsession with one particular prophet, book, god, etc. as a singular or final pinnacle in a hierarchy limited by space-time. The ideology misuses the 'sacred' as a carrier for political ambition, and it cuckolds the 'classical' to lend itself respectability. The time-horizon is limited to a single lifetime of the current physical body, to the extent of projecting it into an afterlife in heaven or hell (as the case may be). It socially engineers managed solutions and elitist priestcraft at the cost of a spiritual culture of individual, unmanaged customization.

[A word here on the Vedic perspective of Karma and rebirth: Some Western "Indologist" types with their 'Aryan' race-based theories have been trying to suggest that the concept of Karma and rebirth is not present in the 'Aryan' Vedas, and was a later development within 'Upanishadic' Hinduism. Bollocks, of course.]

From a RigVeda verse on cremation, 10.16.3 -
सूर्यं चक्षुर्गच्छतु वातमात्मा द्यां च गच्छ पृथिवीं च धर्मणा ।
अपो वा गच्छ यदि तत्र ते हितमोषधीषु प्रति तिष्ठा शरीरैः ॥ 
"To the Sun let your Eyes go,
To the Wind your Life-breath.
By the good Deeds you have done,
Go to the Heaven and then come back again
To live on the Earth or take to the Waters
If you are comfortable with it.
Remain in the Herbs with the bodies you intend to take."
And another one. RigVeda 10.16.2 -
श्रुतं यदा करसि जातवेदो ' थेमेनम् परिदत्तात् पितृभ्यः ।
यद् गच्छात्यसूनीतिमेतामथा देवानां वाशनीर्भवाती ॥ 
"When the Supreme Lord gives the soul rebirth and facilitates another mother-father duo based on the fruits of Karma, then the soul inherits that particular type of life-force dynamics, and becomes engaged with the sensory apparatus."
Between Method & Madness

Caught between the intoxication of devotion and the method of the intellect, what is the way? Seen from the perspective of Vaishnava bhakti texts like the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.101 -

पञ्चरात्र-विधिं विना ।
ऐकान्तिकी हरेर्भक्तिर्
उत्पातायैव कल्पते ॥

"Devotion to the Lord that ignores the method and concepts of Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Nārada-pañcarātra is merely an unnecessary upheaval in society." (History stands witness!)

That perspective is intimately related to progress over multiple "births-and-deaths" - Bhagavad Gita 7.19 -

बहूनां जन्मनामन्ते
ज्ञानवान् मां प्रपद्यते ।
वासुदेवः सर्वमिति
स महात्मा सुदुर्लभः ॥

"After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare."

That said, all such arrangements without true devotion is useless labour - Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.2.8 -

धर्मः स्वनुष्ठितः पुंसाम्
विश्वक्सेन-कथासु यः ।
नोत्पादयेद् यदि रतिम्
श्रम एव हि केवलम् ॥

"The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead."

See also: Blasphemy and Multicultural Democracy for a comparison of the basic principles of a Vedic devotional religion and a non-Vedic one.

Varnashrama Dharma: Completing a Cycle of Action & Cycle of Thought

The four psycho-physical modes and the four psycho-spiritual modes are the matrix in which the method and madness can operate.

The 4 varnas (psycho-physical modes) are phases of a cycle of Action. It is a psycho-physical process within the individual as well as the body politic.

The 4 ashramas (psycho-spiritual modes) are phases of a Cycle of Thought. It is meant to discharge life-force so as to best channel the progress of civilization.

Quoting Shrimad Bhagavatam 5.19.19:

अस्मिन्नेव वर्षे पुरुषैर् लब्ध-जन्मभिः शुक्ल-लोहित-कृष्ण-वर्णेन स्वारब्धेन कर्मणा दिव्य-मानुष-नारक-गतयो बह्व्य आत्मन आनुपूर्व्येन सर्वा ह्येव सर्वेषां विधीयन्ते यथा-वर्ण-विधानं अपवर्गश्चापि भवति ।

"The people who take birth in this land are divided according to the modes of material nature — the modes of goodness [sattva-guṇa], passion [rajo-guṇa], and ignorance [tamo-guṇa]. Some of them are born as exalted personalities, some are ordinary human beings, and some are extremely abominable, for in Bhārata-varṣa one takes birth exactly according to one's past Karma. If one's situation is ascertained by a bona fide method according to the four social modes [brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra] and the four spiritual modes [brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa], one's life discharges itself to perfection."

Quoting from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa (389), Parāśara Muni says:

पुरुषेण परः पुमान् ।
विष्णुर् आराध्यते पन्था
नान्यत् तत् तोष-कारणम् ॥

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Viṣṇu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varṇa and āśrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Lord."

Needless to say, the theoretical framework of Varnashrama itself can be treated in an erroneous epistemological non-Vedic way. In which case it is asuri varṇāśrama, not daivi varṇāśrama. Varnashrama is based on the classifications of "guna-karma" (quality and cultivation), as the Bhagavad Gita explains clearly. As the Bhagavatam's story goes, the asuras (demons) developed a perfect varṇāśrama society, but it did not please Vishnu, whereas even the imperfect varṇāśrama of the society of devas (gods) apparently pleased Him no end.

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