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):

Characteristics...
“Classical”
“Sacred”
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

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