Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Deracination series - 6 - The Age of Dualism

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The Role of "Dvaita" in Indic socio-polity.

The age of dualism ushered in the world and in India with patronization of Vaishnava pantha by Gupta rulers. Whilst opinion of Dualism (Dwaita-mat द्वैतमत) was existent in India for long time, this patronization started a process in India which led to profound social and political changes in Indic sphere.

ब्रह्म सत्यम जगत मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव ना पर: - Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya Jeevo brahmaiva naaparah

Brahman - ब्रह्मन - literally, it means one which expands.

Satyam- one which is eternal, changeless and existent

Jagat (Universe/World)- Ja + Ga
Ja - jaayate (to arise, originate, born)
ga - gamana: - ga - (one which goes/moves or changes)

It means, one which is born (janana) out of gati (speed/change) is Jagata: That is Universe is said to have come into existent due out of constant change.

Mithya- has word root as 'Mith'. This is the most interesting and illuding term on this phrase. As given by Apte Sanskrit Online dictionary, Mith - to associate with; to unite; to hurt; to understand; to wrangle; to grasp

Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya, following meanings are deduced.

1) Brahman is existent, jagat is associated (with Brahman)
2) Brahman is Existent, jagat is united (with Brahman)
3) Brahman is existent, jagat is hurt (does not make sense)
4) Brahman is existent, jagat is understood by (brahman)
5) Brahman is existent, jagat is wrangled/tended/herded (by brahman) (wrangle = to herd, to tend)
6) Brahman is existent, jagat is grasped by brahman

"That one which originates/exists due to constant change (jagat) is associated with/United with/being tended by (mithyA) Brahman which is changeless existence (satya) - Brahma Satyam, jagat MithyA..."

Furthermore, the interpretation of word Mithya determines whether a person is advaitin OR dvaitin OR vishishtadvaitin.

If Mithya is taken as United, then a person is advaitin (brahman and jagat are united and satya).  This is in sync with Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahma (everything that exists is Brahman)

If mithya is takes as association, then the person is vishishtadvaitin. (brahman is satya and jagat is associated with satya, but not completely satya). 

If mithya is taken as wrangled (to tend), then, he becomes a dvaitin (brahman is satya, jagat is being wrangled/tended/herded (by brahman)). Here, World is being herded by the separate herder that is God.

Thus we can see, differential interpretation of this phrase by Shankara eventually ends up in conjuring vastly different world views towards life and universe.

The third interpretation (emboldened) of this sentence is the hallmark of a theistic Dwaita-mat. The atheistic dualism "Saamkhya-Yoga" does not require a hypothesis of a supreme herder.

The age of monotheistic Dualism first ushered in by Persian sage Zaratushtra. Later these ideas were taken up by Moses and Judaism began. Later Christianity and Islam with all their flavours followed. To the east of Sindhu, however the system remained slightly different.

The patronization of Vaishnava maarga (by Guptas according to traditional dating methods) started almost around same time as popularity of Christianity started increasing in middle-east. A century later monotheistic dwaita-mata was accepted by Emperor Constantine. 

Around 500 AD, the bhakti movement started with Alvar saints of Tamil Nadu and spread northwards. The homogenization of Adi Shankaracharya and defeat of all other atheistic systems (both Aastika and Nastika atheism) is the hall-mark of the period from 400 AD to 900 AD. The Indic civilization was at the height of its sovereignty and Arabs were defeated by Pratihara Rajputs and Rashtrakutas. The global climate started changing towards a more "dry" period which increased the susceptibility of India towards raids from Northwest. Furthermore, lack of rains too make people more "pious" as the idea of caretaker father is essential for people to keep on going.

The monotheistic Dualism comes in three flavours. Weak (Vaishnava, Shaiva etc), intermediate (Sikh), strong (Abrahmic religions). The Dwaita schools of Indian origin refrained from inculcating a strong dualistic character as seen in Abrahamic religions. The Dwaita system has plenty of salient features which makes it extremely effective tool of dealing with distressed OR resourceless people. Furthermore, Dwaita system enables the features like Love, artistic display of emotions towards the "shepherd", music, sense of total surrender to the "alpha-male" in the sky. Thus, the potential for cultural and artistic evolution is greatest in the age of "dwaita". The age of Dwaita sometimes hinders the scientific inquiry though. Since the emphasis and the "mood" of overall system is towards "surrender (Sharanaagati)", the scope of free-rationalistic inquiry is somewhat limited. This is most evidently seen in Abrahmic paths. But this is also seen in Indic paths of weak and intermediate monotheistic dualism. The scientific and technological achievements are seen to be steadily decreasing with advent of Dwaita-System in Indian subcontinent.

The advent of this system however enabled India to remain Dharmic while facing the onslaught of strong monotheistic memes. In form of "Sikh Pantha", India also found an answer to reply to abrahmic monotheistic memes in their own coin. There were few peculiar traits which were inculcated by Indic politicians in the age of "dualism".

The ceremony of king's coronation is in Vedas upon which the "Raaja" is declared as form of Vishnu on earth. However, the status of "Vishnu" in Vedas is that of a 12th associate of Indra. Vishnu is the 12th Adtiya who derives energy from "Indra" and hence called "Upendra (Upa+Indra - Subordinate of Indra)". The function of Vishnu in Vedas is to assist the "indra" in maintaining the order on earth and kill the Vritrasura. Similar is the function of "Vishnu's avataara" on earth in form of a king who is coronated. 

With advent of Vaishnavism, the trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva became more popular than Vedic gods of Indra family. Yet, the rituals remained the same and Kings started considering themselves as avataar of Vishnu the supreme lord on earth (as extolled by dualistic school of Vaishnavism). In later periods, people started considering and implicitly accepting all kings dharmik or not, as avataars of vishnu. The Darshan system of Akbar denotes this deracination of Indian people about their own concepts and their relevant meanings.

The strong dualistic traditions like abrahmic religions discourage the course correction of the society by rationalistic ideologies and philosophies. While dualistic traditions are great mobilizers of common man from all the social strata for a common cause, it also confers tremendous inertia which resists all the change (good and bad).

The age of dualism ended in Europe (as far as socio-polity is concerned) with renaissance and french revolution. It has begun to end in India with British conquest and emergence of Hindu reformers in Bengal and elsewhere which popularized the philosophical aspect of Advaita. With time, Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Bauddha and Jaina traditions will too start picking up in India.However, the Indic society (Sikhs and "Hindus") in modern times is trying to imbibe few attributes of strong monotheistic dualism in themselves as a reaction to rising level of fundamentalism in Indic Muslims and to lesser extend, Christians. This is one of the interesting and potentially dangerous trends (in long run) which we are seeing in India. I agree that it is essential and support it as long as the subsequent "calming down" of such highly emotional memes is ensured.

This is "deracination" in my opinion. The way of loosening the grip of strong monotheistic dwaita memes and subsequently defeating them is not by becoming more "fundamentalist" than them. It is be becoming more rationalistic and forceful than them. The age of "Dwaita" will sustain in India in its weak form (philosophically, Sikh pantha is only slightly stronger than vaishnava pantha, when it comes to dualism). The Dharma aspect will ensure that the remnants of Indic Dwaita schools do not become as strong as Abrahmic counterparts. However the abrahmic memes need to be toned down in their strength of dualism. This requires rational use of force as seen in Europe. The method may not be the same for India, but the idea still is.

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