Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Cyclic time of Indian System - 2

Creative Commons License

Kaal - The Concept of time in India - Kaalaay Tasmay Nama: Kaal (time) is the supreme force in universe. Nothing escapes the swath of time. Bowing down to Mahakaala, I proceed further to ascertain the understanding of time and its effect on world-view of India.
The world-view of Kaalam in India is cyclical. The time "comes and goes" again and again. Sages found out that a plant grows, leaves seeds in hot barren land and dies. With first showers, the plant come to life again. Something similar is seen in human and animal life. A person dies, and another one is born. When the course of inquiry deepened, they assumed that the "life-force (Jeeva)" enters the womb of woman via the "semen (Retas)" of the man. There he grows into baby for next 9 months, lives for variable years under variable conditions (favourable and unfavourable, governed totally by chance which was then called as luck and then destiny or Bhaagyam). And then the "jeeva" dies. Similar to the plant. Then just like plants, the "jeeva" comes back to life again and continues his journey. But when one speaks of journey, one has to speak of destination - What is the destination which is being sought by the jeeva? Apparently, the description of stay in womb (upsidedown) is considered not very good by later philosophers. However, the idea was given that Jeeva seeks "liberation (moksha)" from this cycle of birth and death. Other variants of this idea suggested knowledge/Nirvana/Shunyata (nothingness). 

Around 1000-900 BC (according to traditional dating methods), Kapila came up with his theory of Saamkhya. Saamkhya is a atheistic and aastik world-view which tried to explain the universe using the ideas of "Purush and Prakriti - Matter and Energy". In his thesis, he introduced the theory of "Satkaarya-vaadam" which is the origin of "Kaarya-Kaaran Bhaavam" (the law of causality). For every effect, there is a cause and viceversa. When this got coupled with cyclical life and death of Jeeva, we get the beginning of Karma Siddhaanta. The evolution of Karma-siddhanta starts here.

The Karma-Siddhaanta is the back-bone of Indian civilization which is the basis of "cyclical nature of time" in Indian system. The Karma-Siddhaanta is the important check on the adherence of public towards "Dharma" (Justice). The Karma Siddhaanta of India is so encompassing that once one believes in it, there is no turning away. It stays in one's mind for ever, even after one has stopped taking it seriously. There are many loop-holes and excuses which are devised by various people to give the logical explanation to the karma theory, but those excuses weren't much popular because those excuses needed a figure similar to "Deus ex Machina" who came from nowhere and pardoned the person (the famous story of Ajaamila and Naaraayan). Apart from such stories, time by and large remained "cyclical" in the Indic system of Dharma-Artha-Kaama-Moksha.

The middle-eastern memes and earlier western memes (Greek, Roman et al) on the contrary has a "linear" concept of time. In this world view, time does not repeat, there is hence one life, one book to guide that one life, one god to be worshipped in that one life. Thus the common factor OR the denominator of human life in middle-eastern "Vyavasthaa" is one. Since the time is linear and life is singular, there is a hurry to achieve things, increase the efficiency, standardize the processes, remove the anomalies (since they require time to analyse and who has time), acquire as much as you can, because you only live once. The war ethics, business ethics, science ethics, artistic ethics, cultural ethics everything which is derived from middle-eastern world-view shows this inherent understanding and appreciation of the world. This is a very efficient and fantastic system in the space and times where resources and cost of living (in terms of energy) is ridiculously high. In spaces and times (like India, for example) where resources are abundant and cost of living (in terms of energy) is very low, the higher chances of efficient survival is by adopting a cyclical concept of time.

The Karma Siddhanta is both just and benevolent, but is also very slow. But when time is plentiful and repetitive, it does not matter when the Justice is served (Dharma is established) to a particular doer of a deed (good or bad). He will get the fruit of that Karma eventually without fail. This is one huge drawback of Karma-Siddhanta which inculcates the tolerance in the people regarding delay in Justice. This is rectified by introducing dual nature of karma by having a immediate effect and a delayed effect. Imagine standing in a swimming pool in neck-deep water. Now you take the hands up and splash it hard on water. The water hits the hand back and while you are wondering the slap that water gave you back, a wave comes from nowhere and waters goes in your mouth and nose. This is because of the "deed" of splashing, created a wave which hit the borders and came back to you. In stable polity, a person can get immediate fruit for a murder as death-sentence from king and delayed fruit from cosmos in next birth. This justice (Dharma) is served in this life and next with karma acting as a credible deterrence for following the Dharma. With this correction, Karma-Siddhanta becomes potent enough to support a world-view of socio-political and economic-religious meme-complexes of a society which believes in cyclical nature of time. 

Deracination and its relation with concept of time

A Deracinated individual is one who has given up the cyclical understanding of time and adopted the world-view and system based on linear time along with associated perks and drawbacks. Having a cyclical understanding of time does not necessitate belief in "transmigration of souls", "rebirth", Karma etc. All it necessitates is understanding that whatever goes around comes around and hence is important to remember this in order to maintain "Dharma (Justice)" in world and life. There were various sceptics in the philosophical scene of India who did not believe on anything else except for "pratyaksha Pramaanam (direct perception)". They ignored this concept of time simply because, it only the matter of hypothesis which can't be proved OR disproved. Its like Russel's Teapot circling around the sun OR existence of God. But having this hypothesis makes Justice to penetrate the subconscious minds of Indic people, it has made so before. A converted man (from cyclic to linear time) tends to be more vigilant about his acquired understanding. With effect of Islam the linear concept of time was introduced, but it could not supplant the existing cyclic understanding of universe amongst Indics.


Macaulay hit the hammer precisely on this aspect of Indic world-view, yet in my opinion, he was limited in his success. The real penetration of Linear time has started post 1990 globalization. The urban youth is exceedingly giving up this understanding for an enjoyable life; "The American Dream" as it is sold in the market of ideas. There is no competitor for it in today's market of ideas. Although India has a strong tradition of capitalist economy and had a specialized class of "Vaishyas" who mastered this style of economy for millennia, there still was cyclic understanding of seen in their actions. This made them the biggest benefactors of various projects which sustained the institutions of Dharma and knowledge over the period of time. That is loosing out in modern urban India. Thus, Loss of the hypothesis that "time is cyclic" is being seriously threatened in Indic market of ideas. With fine resolution, it is this that is the real cause of Deracination. This IMO is real deracination of Indian Elite.

2 comments:

d2thdr said...

Very true. Do you feel time is cyclic within ones own life time? What i mean to say- can time repeat itself within a known life span of a jeeva?

Kal_Chiron said...

It is cyclic in one lifetime.. The whole concept of Vimshottari Dasha in Jyotisha is based on cyclic patterns.

Of course Jyotisha explains these cyclic patterns based on planetary movements which may or may not be acceptable to one's critical faculties. But the concept of such patterns is present in our system.

The whole notion that "this isn't the only lifetime and hence no need to hurry and worry" relaxes a person tremendously and relieves most of us from urges which lead towards anxious actions.

Ultimate truth, no one knows. But this attitude is definitely sustainable in space and times where resources are plentiful and life is not full of struggle and cost of living in terms of energy is low (fertile tropical country like India)..