Monday, November 22, 2010

Bharat's counselling by Shri Raam - Paradhin ahe jagati, putra manavacha

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The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Valmiki. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king. 

In the course of story, after Rama and Sita have been married for twelve years, Dasharatha who had grown old expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala assembly and his subjects express their support. On the eve of the great event, Kaikeyi—her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked maidservant—claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama to be exiled into wilderness for fourteen years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata.

The heartbroken king, constrained by his rigid devotion to his given word, accedes to Kaikeyi's demands. Rama accepts his father's reluctant decree with absolute submission and calm self-control which characterizes him throughout the story. He is joined by Sita and Lakshmana. After Rama's departure, king Dasharatha, unable to bear the grief, passes away. Meanwhile, Bharata who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. 

Bharata refuses to profit from his mother's wicked scheming and visits Rama in the forest. He requests Rama to return and rule. But Rama, determined to carry out his father's orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. It is here that Raam counsels the gried-struck younger brother about realities of life. This scene is one of the hallmarks and defining moments of the Raam's story which unravels his steady mind, his unwavering adherence towards truth and promise and his love towards his family. At the end of this scene, Bharata carries Rama's sandals, and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama's regent.

Geet Ramayan is a collection of 56 songs in Marathi, written by noted litterateur G.D.Madgulkar and composed and sung by Sudhir Phadke. The collection of songs contains the gist of Ramayana in chronological sequence. Following, is the 25th song of the album which is one of the most philosophical compositions of modern Marathi literature..

Paradhin ahe Jagati Putra Maanavacha

दैवजात दुःखे भरता, दोष ना कुणाचा
पराधीन आहे जगती पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा.... (धृ)

It is destiny that breeds misfortune, dear brother (Bharat), its not your fault... Mankind is dependent on other higher forces, it not your fault...

माय कैकेयी ना दोषी, नव्हे दोषी तात,
राज्यत्याग काननयात्रा, सर्व कर्म जात,
खेळ चाललासे माझ्या, पूर्व-संचिताचा,
पराधीन आहे जगाती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा... १

It isn't the fault of Mother Kaikeyi, nor is it father's misjudgement.. Abdication of kingdom and Exile was all borne out my Karma.. It is the fruits of previous karma, that I am facing, dear brother, don't blame yourselves for my misfortune... 1

अंत उन्नतीचा पतनी होई या जगात,
सर्व संग्रहाचा वत्सा, नाश हाच अंत
वियोगार्थ मिलन होते, नेम जगाचा
पराधीन आहे जगती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...२

The climax of all progresses in this world is in downfall. The end of all "collection" is always desolation, my dear.. People meet to say goodbye eventually, dear brother.. Don't blame yourselves.. 2

जिवासवे जन्मे मृत्यू, जोड जन्मजात
दिसे-भासे ते ते सारे, विश्व नाशिवंत
काय शोक करिसी वेड्या, स्वप्नीच्या फळांचा??
पराधीन आहे जगती पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष न कुणाचा...३ 

"Death" and "life" are siblings, dear, both come into existence together, one cannot exist without another.. Whatever you can see and perceive is all going to fade away like a dream, one day.. Why then are you sorrowful of dream fading away, dear brother?? - 3

तात स्वर्गवासी झाले, बंधू ये वनांत
अतर्क्य ना झाले काही, जरी अकस्मात
मरण कल्पनेशी थांबे तर्क जाणत्यांचा
पराधीन आहे जगती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...४

I understand it is shocking to realize death of father and exile of brother.. Although it isn't unthinkable, it was all too sudden.. The flight of human imagination stops with prospects of death, dear brother, don't be so grief-struck...4

जरा-मरण यातून सुटला, कोण प्राणीजात ??
दुःख मुक्त जगला का रे, कुणी जीवनात??
वर्धमान ते ते चाले मार्ग रे क्षयाचा
पराधीन आहे जगती पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष न कुणाचा...५

But tell me, did any living being escape from old-age and death?? Did anyone live without having to face sorrows and misfortunes?? Whatever is walking the path of growth today, is also walking the path of eventual decline... Why then be so upset, dear brother, my misfortunes aren't your fault...5

दोन ओंडक्यांची होते, सागरात भेट, 
एक लाट तोडी दोघां, पुन्हा नाही गाठ
क्षणिक तेवी आहे बाळा, मेळ माणसांचा
पराधीन आहे जगती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...६ 

Its like two logs of wood floating in ocean... The waves bring those logs together for some time and then same waves break their bond, the logs separate never to meet again... The association of men in this world is similar, dear brother...6

नको आंसू ढाळू आता, पूस लोचनास
तुझा आणि माझा आहे, वेगळा प्रवास
अयोध्येस हो तू राजा, रंक मी वनीचा
पराधीन आहे जगती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...७ 

Do not shed tears now, wipe your eyes.. Your journey and mine is different... Go and become king of Ayodhya, while I become a hermit in forests...7

नको आग्रहाने मजसी, परतवूस व्यर्थ
पितृवचन पाळून दोघे, होऊ रे कृतार्थ
मुकुट-कवच धारण करी, का वेश तापसाचा?
पराधीन आहे जगती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...८

Don't force me to return, brother I won't budge... Lets honour father's word and give his soul and ours, peace... What difference does it make to that inner peace if one wears royal clothes OR straps of hermit?? Do not blame yourselves...8

संपल्याविना ही वर्षे, दशोत्तरी चार
अयोध्येसी नाही येणे, सत्य हे त्रिवार,
तूच एक स्वामी आता, राज्य-संपदेचा
पराधीन आहे जगती, पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...९

Without completing the exile of 14 years, I will not return to Ayodhya and this is final truth.. You and you alone, dear brother, are true owner of the kingdom.. return and rule without blaming yourselves...9

पुन्हा नका येऊ कोणी दूर या वनांत
प्रेमभाव तुमचा माझ्या जागता मनात
मान वाढावी तू लोकी अयोध्या पुरीचा
पराधीन आहे जगती पुत्र मानवाचा, दोष ना कुणाचा...१०

Please, do not return to forests to persuade me.. Know that in spite of what transpired, I still love you... Go and make Ayodhya Rich and prosperous by ruling Justly... Do not blame yourselves...10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bipinchandra Pal on India and Clash of Civilizations (1923)

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Thoughts of BipinChandra Pal from "Nationality and Empire" published in 1923 - Guys, this book is delight to read... highly recommended...

"This Pan-European combination [that we now call the Westwill be a very serious menace to the non-European world. It will be bound to come into serious conflict with both Pan-Islamism and Pan-Mongolianism [metaphor for Expansionist China]. If Europe can settle her internal jealousies betimes, she will be able to dominate easily both the Islamic and the Mongolian world. Nothing will prevent in that case the parceling out of the Muslim lands on the one side, and of China on the other. But that is not very likely. It will take, at least, as long a time for the European chancelleries to forget their past jealousies and present rivalries, as it will take for China, now that she has awakened from the sleep of ages, to put her own house in order and organize her leviathan strength to hold her own against the entire world.

"The same thing is likely to happen in the Islamic world also; and the fall of Turkey in Europe will hasten this combination. It will not be an organized confederacy like that of China and Japan, but a far more dangerous, because more subtle, combination of the hearts of countless hordes who hold nothing so dear, neither land nor life, as their religion. And the real strength of this Pan- Islamic outburst will come from Egypt and India [which then included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh], where it will be safe from the crushing weight of the Pan-European confederacy. England will not allow her European confederates to interfere with her own domestic affairs; such interference would break up the confederation at once. She will have to settle this Pan-Islamic problem, so far as it may affect her own dominions, herself." 

Then describing where the danger for India will come from, Pal writes under the title "Our Real Danger". "And it is just here that our safety from this possible Pan-European combination also lies. Because of the British connection, India will have nothing to fear from any possible combination of the European powers. The same is also true of Egypt, though perhaps in a lesser degree. Our real menace will come not from Europe but from Asia, not from Pan-Europeanism but from Pan-Islamism and Pan-Mongolianism. These dangers are,  however, common, both to India and Egypt and Great Britain. To provide against it, Great Britain will have to find and work out a satisfactory and permanent settlement of the Indian and the Egyptian problem, and we, on our part, will have also to come to some rational compromise with her. British statesmanship must recognize the urgent and absolute need of fully satisfying the demands of Indian and Egyptian nationalism, and India and Egypt will have to frankly accept the British connection - which is different from British subjection - as a necessary condition of their national life and freedom. To wantonly seek to break up this connection, while it will only hurt Great Britain, may positively kill every chance and possibility of either Indian or Egyptian nationalism ever realizing itself."

Predicting and pleading the need for the alliance of the West and India, Pal writes under the sub-head "Our True Safety": "Indian nationalism in any case, has, I think, really no fear of being permanently opposed or crippled by Great Britain. On the contrary, the  british connection can alone offer its effective protection against both the Pan-Islamic and the Pan-Mongolianism menace. As long as we had to consider Great Britain alone or any other European Power for the matter of that, while thinking of the future of Indian nationalism, the problem was comparatively simple and easy. But now we have to think if China on the one hand, and of the new Pan-Islamic danger on the other. The 60 millions of Mohammedans in India, if inspired with Pan-Islamic aspirations, joined to the Islamic principalities and powers that stand both to our West and our northwest, may easily put an end to all our nationalist aspirations, almost at any moment, if the present British connection be severed. 

"The four-hundred millions of the Chinese empire can, not only gain an easy footing in India, but once that footing is gained, they are the only people under the sun who can hold us down by sheer superior physical force. There are no other people who can do this. This awakening of China is, therefore, a very serious menace - in the present condition of our country, without an organized and trained army and a powerful navy of our own - to the maintenance of any isolated, though sovereign, independence of the Indian people. Even if we are able to gain it, we shall never be able to keep it, in the face of this Pan-Islamic and Pan-Mongolian menace. And when one considers these terrible possibilities of the world situation as it is slowly evolving before one's eyes, one is forced to recognize the absolute need of keeping up the British connection in the interest of Indian nationalism itself, for the very simple and sufficient reason that there is absolutely much greater chance of this nationalism fully realizing itself with rather than without this connection." 

Migraine of Managing Pakistan's failure

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by Shivshankar Sastry

The problem is that the moment Pakistan ceases to define itself as anti-India, everyone there will wake up and notice that they are basically Indians on the western periphery of the subcontinent. so what was the point of Partition and all the wars and the great Jinnah and all that propaganda if it was all pointless in the end? 

And as people have pointed out time and again the most powerful tool for negating India is to hide behind Islam, saying India is Hindu and that Pakistanis are Muslim and cannot be Hindus and therefore not Indian. A complete negation of India's Hindu ethos is required for Pakistaniyat to integrate with India. This will not happen. Ironically Pakistanis have reinforced the middle-eastern connections of Islam and made it more local than global with all the passion of the neophyte eager to prove himself more pious than the prophet, more loyal than the king.

Pakistan at a deeper level and at a level not acknowledged by modern thought that revolves around liberalism and human rights, has been constructed as a retreat of Islam. No amount of suffering and privation, no number of deaths can be too great in order to protect Islam.

In practical terms what Pakistan has done is to set up any opposition to Pakistan as opposition to Islam. How is the world dealing with this?

The west- Pakistan's biggest sponsors, are now finding out about Islam in Pakistan and they are being judgemental about Islam. The west is searching for the chimera of an unattainable "moderate Islam" where women will show there faces and party with strange men. This is one type of conflict with Islam.

The Indian way has not been judgemental about Islam. Islam can be Islam - as long as it coexists with others. This is also a type of conflict with Islam - but probably less so than the conflict in the west.

The Chinese way is to ruthlessly beat down and suppress anyone who disagrees with the group beyond a point. The Chinese speak a language that Islamists understand. Still they will cheerfully combat Islam if that is needed. Pakistanis are too scared to oppose China. They see China as the conqueror of India - a nation that Pakis fear. 

So what Pakistan has done is to set up a conflict with Islam by way of which economic and physical strife for Pakistanis can be ignored or dismissed as a necessity in the larger interests of saving Islam. In my view there are only two ways of dealing with the dilemma that Pakistan poses to the entire world. One is to oppose Pakistan and be accused of opposing Islam.  The other is to let Pakistanis get as much Islam as they want. 

The Indian way has been to allow the Pakistanis to get as much Islam as they want. That means allowing the Taliban to rule if necessary but defending India against the consequences.

The western way has been to try and prevail on one group of Pakistanis who are arbitrarily designated as "moderate" to oppose and fight others who are designated as extremists. For India this is a problem because Pakistanis change their behavior to suit the west when they need money, but remain true to their cause of protecting Islam from outsiders. China has trouble in Xinjiang so China too is like the West and will pay one bunch to oppose another. 

The west are encouraging civil war in Pakistan by supporting an paying one group to oppose another. It so happens that the group that the west supports is also the group that China supports.  India may be the only country that opposes civil war in Pakistan and actually talks about the mango Abdul (average Pakistani). In my view India is also the country that is least likely to be affected by a Taliban takeover of Pakistan because Pakistani behavior towards India has always been Talibanic. It would make little difference. 

Pakistan today is the result of all these conflicts and conflicting methods of dealing with it. The west and china are both willing to pay and arm one group of Pakistanis to fight someone else - be it India or the Taliban. India is the only country that is not paying some group in Pakistan to fight anyone. 

It appears to me that "economics" is often utilized in variable ways. If the elite of Pakistan who get paid by both the US and china are well off, the economy they represent is touted as positive and progressive. What is ignored is the vast mass of mango Abduls who are the tools used by various groups to fight someone else. Nobody can predict exactly what will happen in future, but from an Indian viewpoint I believe it would be ideal if various entities (US, China) stopped paying Pakistani groups to fight others. Since India is unable to prevail upon he US and China to stop paying some Pakistanis to fight others we have to search for positives in the bad bargain that we have got. 

Perhaps the best positive for India will be civil war in Pakistan. If others are paying Pakistanis to fight Pakistanis - that is the best bargain Indians can get. Ultimately Pakistanis will turn on each other and their sponsors.  Only a prolonged sate of chronic civil war, strife and large pockets of hunger and anger in Pakistan can erase or modify the delusions of Islamic supremacy that has tried to ignore both the geography and the history of the civilization around the Indus.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Irony of being "Mahatma"

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Statement: Nobody understood Hindus more than MKG... and nobody misunderstood non-Hindus more than MKG...


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (MKG) viewed the world from Vegetarian-Gujarati-Baniya glasses. These glasses however partial they are, are purely indic in origin. So in other words, contrary to many other senior INC leaders (Except Tilak, Lajpatrai and Bipinchandrapal), he had the world-view and the empathy to connect with rural masses of India beyond Western Maharashtra, Southern Punjab (around Lahore), and Urban Bengal. Gandhi's attire and way of reaching out to people made them feel responsible towards a national cause. The efficacy of Satyagraha on India's independence is a shoddy cover-up. But what cannot be denied is that, he awakened the dormant rank and file of Hindu society from 1920 to 1939. This awakening of Hindu society in these twenty years of Gandhi is mark of sheer genius. He found the pulse of Hindus and could project the control over that pulse many times at will over large and diverse Hindu population. 

He made available a safe way for a Hindu man to contribute his tiny bit towards a national cause and raise his political awareness. The rise in the political awareness of mango Hindu is perhaps one of the single biggest contribution of MKG for mother India. Typically, a Muslim had a higher political awareness than a Hindu of national and particularly of international politics. A Muslim abdul going to madrassa will know about Turkey, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca-Medina, Egypt, Baghdad and related stories. The phrase of Room-Shaam  (from Rome to Siam) is made popular in Indian languages after the influence of Islam. A Hindu showed lesser awareness of international and national situation (at least places) except for popular pilgrimage places. The Polity is inherent part of Islam. In Indic religions, Artha is segregated from Dharma and Moksha (which is what pilgrimage is about).

The glasses gandhi were Indic. This was a totally Indic way of looking towards polity and Indic way of mobilizing masses for a particular cause. I am not saying this is the only way, other way is that of Shivaji and Govindsinghji. However, in given times, he was the only one to have both a unique "hindu" world-view as well as empathy of the masses. This is where Bipinchandra Pal and Lala Lajpat rai could not compete after death of Tilak. These three had the world-view similar to Shivaji and Govindsinghji. Tilak had both but his age was against him. And Tilak's political and ideological heir, Veer Savarkar, lost out precious years in imprisonment at Andamans.

These Vegetarian-Gujarati-Baniya glasses of MKG were the source of his greatest strength and greatest weakness. He looked at everyone through these glasses. These glasses of him enabled him to feel the pulse of 80% of Indians. But this made him totally disconnected from remaining 20%, the Indian muslims. He viewed IM from these glasses too, and this is what led to his undoing. Starting from Khilafat, he continuously misunderstood Islam. His conviction and his successes with Indian Hindus made him callous to the warnings of others who understood Islam, including the warning of Muhammad ali Jinnah while his opposition to Khilafat movement in 1917. He tried to control and pamper them as he pampered and controlled the "harijans" or the "Dalits" of hindu society. 

His personal integrity and purity of character is comparable only to a Rishi. However, only Hindus venerate chaste Rishis. The saints of Muslims and Christians are proselytizing warlords who are proficient at killing or converting the heathens (St. Xaviers, for example). He totally misunderstood this part.

Hence the statement - MKG understood Hindus more than anyone else in his times, and he repetitively misunderstood Muslims more than anyone else in his times.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Role of Shri Raam in preserving the idea of "Dharma"

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Dharma is set of rules which are devised to accommodate all the components of society which are ready to evolve and adapt.

Those components which do not show this drive to evolve in accordance to time and conditions, they are weeded out.. Trying to preserve such components is adharma because it hinders growth of all others which is not rightful and just. There may be different opinions on how to "weed-out" these anachronistic memes.. But thrown out, they must be...

Now, what matters is, attitude towards weeding them out.. Should every thing be thrown out? or should things that still can be salvaged, be salvaged? India's nature has typically been in favour of latter. We try to preserve as far as possible. Hence we find such a diversity of opinions and traditions and antique-artifacts in India. Because it in our nature to "preserve".

However, when certain factors start hurting and direly threatening this tendency of Indians to "preserve and propagate" all kinds of diverse ideas, those factors are detrimental to very "idea" that India stands for - "Dharma". 

In this case, in modern times and place, those factors are

1. Political Islam aka Islamism and the Qazi-Mullah class (to be differentiated from ordinary Muslims who live and face problems in India just like any other citizen)
2. Foreign Christian missionaries and related NGOs on foreign pay-roll doing forcible conversions in tribal areas (to be differentiated from millions of nationalist Christians who have been living amicably in India for 2000 years and who form integral part of Dharmic India)
3. Indian Communists and Leftists on foreign pay-roll (to be differentiated from nationalistic-leftists which should be preserved at all costs)

These three factors are trying to bring about a kind of "standardisation and homogenization" in India which will destroy not only the diversity of India but also the tendency of Indians to stand and tolerate myriad of different opinions, learn from them, grow with them and co-synthesize newer variants and ideas. In case of standardisation of any kind, what will happen to India can be seen in what is currently happening with Pakistan. Its is a direct litmus test for all indians to see that what will happen to them, if they leave Dharma and if Dharma leaves them.

Sustenance of this "value-system" based of "just-preservation of diverse memes" is "Dharma" and to make it well-established in entire population of India, we need examples. This sustenance requires all sorts of human emotions, sentiments and hence actions. We require anger, violence, love, non-violence, logic, justice, strength, weakness, robustness, delicateness. Various personalities in history and in mythology give example of such conditioned behaviour taken by those personalities which led to preservation of "Dharma". 

Shri Raam is one such epitome of examples which leads and inspire millions to perform all actions (violent/non-violent, attractive/unattractive, good/bad) which are required and demanded by time and environment for preservation of Dharma. Indian mind is usually non-violent. It tends to "adjust" with few "uncomfortabilities" and live on. It requires a very strong justification to carry out an essential but unpleasant task for preservation of this system. Examples like Raam, Krishna, Buddha, Mahaveer, Chaarvak, Adi Shankaracharya, Shivaji, Guru Govindsingh, Rana Pratap, Durga, Kaali, Shiva, Jaichand, Aambhi, Kauravas, Pandavas, Ravana etc give a "perspective" to every Indian mind to justify the necessary action.

As Kapila says in Saamkhya darshan and Krishna in Geeta, without "action" this world and this system won't exist. This is also (in a way) supported by second law of thermodynamics. The system always tends to go towards disorder. We need to keep on doing work "on the system" continuously just to keep it in order. Of course it increases disorder somewhere else, but can't help. 

Raam symbolizes the justification and example of those actions which are required to be performed by every individual, every community, every state and every nation for preservation of "Dharma" as described in earlier paragraphs. He also symbolizes and justifies all those actions which is required to be performed by body, mind, intellect and ego of every individual for preservation of "dharma" within self (Swadharma). 

You see, when idea of "dharma" and "Raam" is relevant and interconnected on so many dimensions, we can't let him go, can we?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Aastikas and Naastikas - System of Religious philosophies in India

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1. From this previous post, I have argued that there is no term for "religion" in Indian world-view. One can say there was no religion before Islam came.

2. From this another previous post, we have seen that there are dharma-shastras (law-books dealing with societal, judicial, administrative matters etc) , Artha-shaastras (dealing with power, economics, politics, warfare etc), Kaamshastras (dealing with creative faculties of mind - finearts and performing arts), Moksha-shaastras (philosophical schools dealing with nirvana/moksha) in Indian "world-view" and no "one single Book" by "One single  author" to guide people in all aspects of life.

Continuing the line of discussion further, we find out that there were many schools of thought, ideologies, philosophies which were constantly arguing and debating with each other. Every ideology (religion in modern terms) was called as "mat (मत)" by our seers.

Buddhism was called Bauddha-mat (बौद्धमत) - Opinion of Buddhaa
Jainism was called Jaaina-mat -(जैनमत)  - Opinion of Jinendra
Vaishnavism was Vaishnava-mat - (वैष्णवमत)- Opinion of vaishnavas
Shaivism was called Shaiva-mat - (शैवमत) - Opinion of Shaivas
Sikh school of thought is called Guru-mat -(गुरुमत) - Opinion of Guru

So on and so forth for all the ideological schools....

Thus everything was "an opinion" onlee. Although all the philosophies claimed to be stating complete truth, all accepted and understood each-other's position and agreed to disagree without resorting to physical violence.

From this, what we follow is that in Indian system, Conversion == change of opinion. It is as simple as that. If I start finding "opinion of Gurus" logical than others in "given space and time" I will change my opinion and become a Sikh. The classical word used for "conversion" in Indian literature is Mataantar (मतांतर).

The Argumentative Indians:

The Vaad-vivaad (argumentative debate) tradition is age-old in India. The proponents of each schools used to go to other schools and hold debate sessions. There they put-forth the opinions in public forums and argued with each other (usually for days and weeks). 

There are rules of acquiring and displaying knowledge in Indian system. That system is called "Nyaaya (न्याय)". In this, there is categorization of "acceptable valid proof" (Pramaanam प्रमाणं). In that list of acceptable valid proofs, there were certain schools who placed "sentence in Vedas (वेदवाक्यं)" at first position (eg. Mimaamsa मीमांसा). Others place it far below in the list (eg. Saamkhya-Yoga-Vedanta-Vaisheshika). Others do not place it at all (eg. Bauddha, Jaina, Charvaka).

Those people in whose list, "sentence in Veda" finds a mention anywhere (even if bottommost position), those people are called "aastikas". Aastika comes from "Asti (अस्ति) - Yes, it is".

Those people who would cite a reference from Vedas but not consider it as a "Pramaanam" were Naastikaas. "Naa asti (ना अस्ति) - No, it isn't".

The syntax of a typical debate is something like

Statement X - Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahma - सर्वं खलु इदं ब्रह्म (Everything that "is" is parabrahman)..
Debater 1 (aastika) agrees. 
Moderator and/or the other party asks," Ko Pramaanam - को प्रमाणं?" (What is the proof?)
Debater 1 - Cites a verse from some upanishada and says "Iti pramaanam - इति प्रमाणं" (here is the proof).
Debater 2 (if he disagrees) - Naasti naasti - नास्ति नास्ति (no it isn't, no it isn't).
Debater 3 (if there and agrees) - Aasti aasti - अस्ति अस्ति (yes it is, yes it is).

Thus Debater 1 and 3 are Aastikas (Yes-sayers) and Debater 2 is Naastika (No-sayer). 

Now, consider a situation in some other time and place when Debater 1 and 3 meet (lets assume 1 is mimaamsak and 3 is Vedantist). They have debate going on for days on whether Veda-vaakyam (Statement in Vedas) should be given the "numero uno" priority as proof or whether it should be one of the subsidiary supporting proofs. The famous example of this kind of debate is the one between Adi Shankara and Mandana-Mishra. Adi Shankara gives "direct experience" more preference than abidance to scriptures. Here both are "aastikas" and yet oppose each other with almost equal vehemence.

The aastika schools of Saamkhya and Yoga are ideologically close to Bauddha school of thought compared to distance between Vedanta and Bauddha. All these schools of vaishnav, shaiv, shaakta, gaanapatya, Bhakti fall under a Sub-class of Vedanta known as "Dwaitmat (द्वैतमत). There are similar vehement arguments between dualists and non-dualists (Advaita-mat). 

Like pH scale if we make a scale from 0 to 10 with adherence/acceptance/influence of principles of Vedas as measuring factor with 0 being least adherence/acceptance/influence, we will find most of the naastika schools from 0 to 2-3. Because there is always some penetration of Vedic philosophy in every indian philosophy (including Islamic Sufism). The position on scale is determined by "to what extent do they allow this penetration/influence". Mimaamsak will fall on 10 (extreme adherence to vedic rituals and philosophies). Others will fall at different places.

This was just to explain the origin of terms like "Aastika" and "Naastika". There is nothing negative about any of them

From point of view of a Mimaamsaka, Samkhya and Yogis are Nastikas. from his (mimansak's) PoV, samkhya are "less Naastika" than Bauddha or Jaina. From point of view of Charvaka (sitting on 0), everybody else are aastikas because everybody have accepted some penetration of vedic philosophy to an extent greater than Charvakas. Similarly vice-versa. 

The system is furthermore complex because every individual is free to make and propound his own path (यतो मत, ततो पथ - As many opinions, so many paths). So every individual calibrates his position on the scale and relative to his position, others are Aastikas and Naastikas. The Followers of Ramkrishna mission (advaitists) and ISKCON (Achintya Bhedaabheda Dvaitists) have had similar arguments. Similarly J Krishnamurthy, Rajneesh and other modern philosophers. 

I have been labelled as a Naastika by many vedantists and Bhakti-maargi people in few forums. Some Buddhists label me as Aastika. Likewise I call them by these relative degrees just to know where I stand. This is what it is all about - Recalibration of Self.

Deracination: The loss of this understanding of Aastikas and Naastikas and their misinterpretation as "Theists" and "Atheists" respectively, has led to several instances of misunderstandings of the literature. The belief in god (as implied by the word theism) has nothing to do with "Aastika" and "Naastika" philosophies.  Out of 6 Aastika philosophies, 5 are atheists (they do not believe in existence of "Ishwara"). The term used for them in India is "Nirishwar-vaadi (निरीश्वरवादी)".

Categorization of few of the popular Indian religious philosophies to avoid further misinterpretations and confusions:

1. Aastika Atheist philosophies: Saamkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa, Yoga
2. Aastika Theist philosophies: Vedanta (with all its sub-categories)
3. Naastika Atheist philosophies: Buddhism, Jaina, Charvaka, Aajivika
4. Naastika Theist philosophies: Sikhism, Sufism.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

What is Existence (Satyam)?

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What is "Sat"?

नासदासीन नो सदासीत तदानीं नासीद रजो नो वयोमापरो यत | 
किमावरीवः कुह कस्य शर्मन्नम्भः किमासीद गहनं गभीरम ||  - Rigveda 10:129:1

THEN was not non-existent (Asatyam) nor existent (Satyam): there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?

The primary and most fundamental attribute of "Sat" which is acceptable by all philosophies in India (including Naastika ones like Buddhism and Jainism) is the one that "Exists" in all spaces and times. The Chidaananda attribute is strictly Vedantic interpretation of reality. In a way, the very term "Brahman" is one-sided description of reality. How? Nasadiya answers in following manner.

कामस्तदग्रे समवर्तताधि मनसो रेतः परथमं यदासीत | 
सतो बन्धुमसति निरविन्दन हर्दि परतीष्याकवयो मनीषा | - Rigveda 10:129:4

Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit. Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent.

Satya and Asatya are siblings - both came into existence together. The very "Idea" of "existence" comes with a corollary of "Non-Existence". Similarly vice-versa. Both these terms cannot exist without each other. In a way, this is also the origin of our "Saamkhya" philosophy. The sages here are describing a point when there was "Absolute Nothing".  This state of Absolute Nothingness (or what Buddha calls to as Shunyataa) is what is intriguing. 

तिरश्चीनो विततो रश्मिरेषामधः सविदासीत रेतोधाासन 
महिमान आसन सवधा अवस्तात परयतिः परस्तात - 10:129-5

Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.

The term Brahman comes from the word-root "BRhat बृह" which means "expansion". One which "expands" is Brahma. One which expands extremely is "Para-Brahma" (usually they are used as synonyms.

This state of "absolute Nothingness" is what yogis, Saamkhyins, Buddhists, contemplate on. But hold on... Was there something even then? Can there be anything else which is more "fundamental" than "Existence"? Furthermore, if Brahman is "Satyam" (as proclaimed by Sri Adi Shankara) then what is "Asatyam"? And both "Satyam (Brahman) and "Asatyam" came into existence simultaneously (this is the "Ved-Vaakyam"). If we assume that time was there then (which isn't the case because the very concept of time requires a 3-D space which wasn't there. 

But for the ease of imagination (since our brains aren't evolved to run the simulations of such complexity to create images in mind) we assume that there is some axis relative to which all this is happening. So at point "X" satyam-Asatyam siblings are born. That means they weren't there "before that point". Thus the very term of "Satyam" is shown as "limited". And since Brahman == Satyam, this applies to Brahman as well. 

In this scenario, the factually correct statement would be "After that point X, Satyam (Brahman) refers to absolute and complete existence. As alluded in previous paragraph, Space-time came into existence after "Sat" came into existence. Thus Sat still holds true when it comes to its definition as "an entity which is changeless and existent in all spaces in all times". But what beyond/before that? Naasadiya leaves the question unanswered - 

को अद्धा वेद क इह पर वोचत कुत आजाता कुत इयंविस्र्ष्टिः | 
अर्वाग देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यताबभूव || RV 10:129:6
इयं विस्र्ष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न | 
यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे वयोमन सो अङग वेद यदि वा नवेद ||RV 10:129:7

Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, [b]he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not

All the Moksha-Maargas of India (aastika and naastika who delve this far) are in fact various approaches taken by different people in the quest to answer this riddle which the sages have put. Every body makes their bunch of assumptions and hypothesis and puts forth a theory. But there is always something which remains. Just as it is described in Purusha-sukta. Hence multiple approach is recommended in Upanishads. 

As far as Advaita is concerned, this is where the anomaly unfolds as both beginning and end. The necessity of the assumption of "Maya" is required here, and with that, we require a concept of "Maayaadhipati Ishwara". This is a very useful assumption (the assumption that Ishwara exists). I guess to be able to imagine this state of "nothingness", our brain needs to be secreting some weird and special neurotransmitters and chemicals in some special part. All the training by Yogis, the meditative practices, the mind-influencing drugs, is perhaps to induce this state in one's brain. It is one of the life-altering experiences (as described by sages). Yogis call it Kaivalya (Only-ness/Singularity), others call is Advaita, Shunyata (zero-ness), Moksha, nirvana, fanaa (by sufis). 

As many saints have said, Bhakti is the simplest way to induce this. You love something which is very grand so intensely that the state is induced and you experienced that which sages state in last two verses of Nasadiya Sukta but couldn't elaborate or explain. But corollary to this is that it would be difficult to be a Bhakta (lover in essence) after knowing that Ishwara (the beloved) is probably just an assumption. But Adi shankara, Santa Gnaaneshwara, Swami Vivekananda and many others have shown that it is possible.

In any case, the spirit of inquiry and scepticism shown in final two verses of Naasadiya Sukta is least common denominator and perhaps the "originator" for all the Indian religions and Indian way of life.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chitto jetha Bhayashunyo - Where the mind is without fear

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One of the charismatic poem by Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur from his Geetanjali. On the eve of 64th independence day of India, I convey my regards and wishes to fellow Indians.

Original Bengali version:

চিত্ত যেথা ভয়শূন্য উচ্চ যেথা শির,
জ্ঞান যেথা মুক্ত, যেথা গৃহের প্রাচীর
আপন প্রাংগণতলে দিবস-শর্বরী 
বসুধারে রাখে নাই খণড ক্ষুদ্র করি,

যেথা বাক্য হৃদযের উতসমুখ হতে 
উচ্ছসিয়যা উঠে, যেথা নির্বারিত স্রোতে,
দেশে দেশে দিশে দিশে কর্মধারা ধায়
অজস্র সহস্রবিধ চরিতার্থতায়,

যেথা তুচ্ছ আচারের মরু-বালু-রাশি
বিচারের স্রোতঃপথ ফেলে নাই গ্রাসি -
পৌরুষেরে করেনি শতধা, নিত্য যেথা 
তুমি সর্ব কর্ম-চিংতা-আনংদের নেতা,

নিজ হস্তে নির্দয় আঘাত করি পিতঃ, 
ভারতেরে সেই স্বর্গে করো জাগরিত ||

Devanaagari transliteration

चित्त जेथा भयशून्य ,उच्च जेथा शिर ,
ज्ञान जेथा मुक्त जेथा गृहेर प्राचीर
आपन प्रांगणतले दिवसशर्वरी
बसुधारे राखे नाइ खण्ड खण्ड क्षुद्रकरि,

जेथा वाकय हृदयेर उत् समुखहते
उच्छ्वसिया उठे , जेथा निर्वारित स्रोते
दशे देशे दिशे दिशे कर्मधारा धाय
अजस्र सहसबिध चरितार्थताय-

जेथा तुच्छ आचारेर मरुबालुराशि 
बिचारेर स्रोतःपथे फेले नाइ ग्रासि,
पौरुषेरे करे नि शतधा-नित्य जेथा
तुमि सर्व कर्म चिन्ता आनंदेर नेता-

निज हस्ते निर्दय आधात करि पितः,
भारतेर सेइ स्वर्गे करो जागरित।

Hindi Translation - कवी शिवमंगल सिंह "सुमन" द्वारा

जहां चित्‍त भय से शून्‍य हो 
जहां हम गर्व से माथा ऊंचा करके चल सकें
जहां ज्ञान मुक्‍त हो 
जहां दिन रात विशाल वसुधा को खंडों में विभाजित कर 
छोटे और छोटे आंगन न बनाए जाते हों 

जहां हर वाक्‍य ह्रदय की गहराई से निकलता हो
जहां हर दिशा में कर्म के अजस्‍त्र नदी के स्रोत फूटते हों
और निरंतर अबाधित बहते हों 
जहां विचारों की सरिता 
तुच्‍छ आचारों की मरू भूमि में न खोती हो
जहां पुरूषार्थ सौ सौ टुकड़ों में बंटा हुआ न हो 
जहां पर सभी कर्म, भावनाएं, आनंदानुभुतियाँ तुम्‍हारे अनुगत हों

हे पिता, अपने हाथों से निर्दयता पूर्ण प्रहार कर
उसी स्‍वातंत्र्य स्‍वर्ग में इस सोते हुए भारत को जगाओ

English Translation

Where the mind is without fear 
and the head is held high; 
Where knowledge is free; 
Where the world has not been 
broken up into fragments by the tireless efforts of men; 

Where words come out from 
the depth of truth; 
Where the currents of tireless striving originate 
and flow without hindrance all over;

Where the clear stream of reason and thoughts has not lost its way into the dreary 
desert sand of lowly habits and deeds; 
Where the valour is not divided in 100 different streams;
Where all the deeds, emotions are blissfully given by you

My father, strike the sleeping India without mercy,
so that she may awaken into such a heaven.