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Archive for नवम्बर, 2009

Identities and search of core values

When someone asked Gandhiji what he thinks of western civilization, he famously replied – “I think it would be nice idea”.

Well taken, but wouldn’t it have been equally pointed an observation, from Winston Churchill’s lips, in reply to question, what he thinks of India as a nation?

For how alien is this predominant concept of nationhood to people-land that is diversified personified?

Looking at the country today, it appears so difficult to find out those elements that bind this multitude of masses together?
For not only that Indians are divided on innumerable lines, an individual Indian too is a deeply divided; living on multiple identities.

The psychological theories should be kept at a bay here as they are developed in more homogenous milieu.

What I mean by multiple identities is more in line of A K Ramanujan’s observations on ‘Indian way of thinking’.
Like, my identity peg, be it – a Maharashtrian, a Patil (my community), a liberal secular democrat, an anti Islamist, a staunch believer of so called Hindu tradition, a shakta-advatist, all and many more are at my disposal and I freely use them without feeling a bit of inconsistency or incoherence.

There is unbridled freedom at my disposal. While at one plane this freedom gives me wider space to creatively explore the environment, it also hinders my ability to act in cohesion with my people. Since everyone has his one universe there is little common ground.

Even as typical an identity as a shakta-advaitist, I can be at a great variance from someone bearing allegiance to similar school. Nirad Babu likened his Hindu mentality to the herd of wilderbeest and again he was not far from point.

It is easy for an Indian to change his beliefs and values than to confront, stand and fight for them, for the traditional Hindu values are least concrete. Little that people can identify with and can be motivated to sacrifice their lives for.
(In this respect Sikhism is a revolutionary phenomenon because it succeeded in creating such deep feeling for spiritual truths that it withstood such tests and tribulations. In the then prevailing mercenary scenario this is no less than a miracle.)

In the absence of a shared history (something that crystallizes thoughts, concepts and philosophies) Indians have oral traditions of histories. This, according to me, is the same process that leads to creation of mythology, but that is a different issue; this lack of vision regarding basic core values and deeper attachment is the root cause of malady that country is facing.

If politics is the theatre where needs and aspirations of people play out, than culture and religion defines the roles of the acts. No doubt it is equally true for every power structure. One has just to see around how in personal life we value money and power over public good? How awestruck we are of success how much ever it could be crooked be the means? In old liberal cultures, hypocrisy rules; in closed cultures, success lies in brute force. In the former, the violence is subtle, apathy based and internalized, while in the later it is coarse, direct and externalized. We all know the truth of our conversation and media talks which with all its sanctimoniousness and drama of outrage is but hollow farce.

Acceptance of Hindu or Indian identity is a classic example of how people can accommodate other and differing views. The success, wealth and power resides in this obscure concept of tolerance. Thus the communities that gelled with all native and foreign powers proved prudent and gained power in both short and long run. Those custodians of older order had little support or motivation to continue with the values and they changed. In this flux the success rests with adapting to the times and being opportunistic.

In Hindu world, this has taken form of tokenisms like Ahimsa, Vasudhiva Kutumbakam and so on. Long, barbaric foreign rule has virtually smashed the backbone of the country and also stunted development of core basic Indian values. What is today passed as Indic values are but remnants collected or created during the British rule. Thus values, thoughts and philosophical schools exist in books (thanks to historicizing) but there are few people who understand, practice and follow.

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Media is very fond of raising the issue of free speech and liberty whenever it is questioned. This self proclaimed fourth column of democracy has become a most profane money laundering mafia. It is in business of concocting consent, a task that was infamously done by religion and church in the past. No wonder media has become most important vehicle of nationalist-jingoistic, right wing or secular propaganda in recent times. It has replaced religion, and in societies where the grip of religion on public life and polity loosened, the role and sweep of media power has grown phenomenally. In more religious societies, since this sordid business of creating consent is still taken care of by religion, media has remained as an entertainment medium; middle-east and other Islamic countries are good example of this. (No wonder American establishment is so much concerned about the Islamists winning propaganda war and is investing so heavily in media intervention tools and technology. This would be their weapon against the crude Friday calls for Jihad – in coming time the greatest fighter against the terrorists will be Media and they should better be prepared for this: but more on this in some other blog entry).
The fact is that media has nothing whatsoever to do with dissemination of information and news, leave apart forwarding a proactive people oriented agenda* simply because they are not paid for that. A common man in our country cannot afford to pay the actual cost of newspaper which will be anywhere between 10-20 bucks nor can he pay for the subscription of news channels if those don’t cross subsidize it by ad revenues. How inane it is to expect that media while earning from the advertisements would be driven by the interest of people. {* The techno-industrial complex driven world has so well entrenched its position today that people can’t think is terms of alternatives. The actual agenda is set by this complex and any alternative to it is immediately reminded of practicality and feasibility in light of the high population, limited resources or perception of self interests. At socio-political level the clash of interests are so obvious and concept of justice is so muddled by the power equations, there remains little that can be called as a people oriented agenda. This is ultimate victory of Techno-Industrial complex and media is forwarding this agenda in no uncertain terms. The concept of unanimity or universality of agenda is well set the Semitic Abrahamic religions and this is the reason the clash to set rules of order (Huntington uses term ‘civilization’) inevitable, while this has already started with the radical Islamists taking the lead, the second development would be of consolidation of Euro-American position. What would be important and interesting to watch is how legalist (according to Huntington Buddhist) China and Hindu ‘civilization’ take their positions in this Clash, for both essentially lack the global proselytizing zeal and vision for that matter. }
Media is in the business of selling reader/viewer’s mental space to producers of goods and services. It’s in business of art creation of perception and its management and thus it prostitute to politicians, business conglomerates, religious and cult figures; anyone provided he has budget to spend. In fact with corporatization of media the real question that arises is that would it be better to include Media in Advertisement industry and not writing them hyphenated. Media productions are governed by reader/audience studies, sponsor advertisers and media planners look for readership and TRP ratings and the management of media houses are getting more concentrated and corporatized.
The minds working behind the screen and print are not pulp-headed; they are rational, intelligent men of world and know where their interest lies. Like, they know the power and money they enjoy will all vanish if they cannot promote interest of their advertisers. And as an old adage Hindi goes – what remains there if a woman for once loses her honor, meaning that inhibition is for the initiated first timer, the lure of power and money is too strong to resist and then ‘sare kuyen mein to bhang mili hain’
The question is, in such a situation why and how an editor can claim a moral or ethical say or authority? Is it at all desirable? And could it be any way other than becoming one with the masses. I mean, does it need superhuman intelligence to understand who pay for obscenely lavish lifestyle of media managers and editors? and wherein their loyalties will rest? The choice is not easy for it is between – should cynicism be accepted as a de facto rule and accordingly things should be allowed to run or should ideals be kept high how may low the actual behavior may fall.
Since we are living in world of relativism, there is little we can speak of ethics, which apart from being subjective is also contextual. Then the righteous indignation with all rhetoric and dramatics expressed by the media pundits are simply pretentions are old habits that should be done away with. The cynicism that bares itself daily in tears, righteousness, annoyance, of anchors and those participating in everyday evening great Tamasha shows called news, is worst form of intellectual dishonesty. It is cheap gimmick. How these intelligent people miss the hypocrisy of discussing passionately farmer suicides one day, malnutrition deaths some other day and yet dabbling in the very power mire that creates such a situation, is amazing. In absence of repulsion to this reality there remains but a stark cynicism, and ask any person why he wants to enter this field you get the answer
Media is selling mental space to the dominant forces of techno industrial complex. The poor and vulnerable people are left out in Media coverage as if every person subscribing to media is in tacit understanding that crass commercialism and consumerism are the rules; all protests and dissents and people suffering there are the cost, May be bad but nonetheless inevitable. Perhaps it is time now that those in media stop preaching from high moral pedestal and introspect.

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बात पुरानी है. बड़ों से सुनी है, साल याद नहीं. बाल गन्धर्व के स्त्री अभिनय के चर्चे ग्वालियर पहुंचे. ग्वालियर महाराज जीवाजीराव सिंधिया ने बाल गन्धर्व के स्त्री वेश में सहज अभिनय की तारीफ के पूल बंधे. दीवान राजवाडे साहब को इस पर भरोसा नहीं बैठा. बात आगे बढ़ी और बाल गन्धर्व की और से राजवाडे साहब को चुनौती दी गयी कि वे राजवाडे साहब के घर हल्दी कुंकू ले कर जायेंगे. जो महाराष्ट्रीय संस्कृति से अपरिचित हैं उन्हें बता दूँ – हल्दी कुंकू पति और परिवार के मंगल के लिए महाराष्ट्रीय महिलाओं द्वारा मनाया जानेवाला त्यौहार हैं, इसमें देवी कि पूजा कि जाती है. सुहागिन महिलाओं को घर बुलाकर कुंकू आदि लगा कर स्वागत किया जाता है और उन्हें करंजी, आम पना और चना दाल की नमकीन जैसे चीजें खिलायी जाती हैं.
तो राजवाडे साहब के वाडे पर चैत्र हल्दी कुंकू के दिन दरवाजे पर लेडी राजवाडे के साथ ४ – ५ महिलाओं का पहरा था. हर आगंतुक महिला का स्वागत कर भीतर बैठाया जा रहा था. लेकिन तेज नजरें सबको देख रही थी. तबी एक कार रुकी और एक आभिजात्य स्त्री उतरीं . महिला ने लेडी राजवाडे को नमस्कार किया और कुशल मलगल पुछा. उन्हें आदर के साथ अन्दर लिवा लिया गया और स्वागत के साथ जलपान करवाया गया. वह महिला सबसे मिली और जाते हुए लेडी राजवाडे को धन्यवाद् दे बाहर अपनी कार में जा बैठीं. कार्यक्रम चलता रहा. लेडी राजवाडे की नज़रें तो बाल गन्धर्व को पकड़ने के लिए आतुर थी. इतने में कार का ड्राईवर लेडी राजवाडे के पास पहुंचा और बोला बाल गन्धर्व आपके घर हल्दी कुंकू ले चुके हैं और वहां कार में बैठे हैं.
राजवाडे साहब शर्त हार चुके थे और कलाकार के चर्चे सारे ग्वालियर में ताज्जुब के साथ सुने सुनाये जा रहे थे.

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We believe there is a spirit in all things, and through sculpture we express in form the beauty of that spirit. The smallest unit is the atom. Ultimately they are united in form – in physical objects – but they also exist in space. Within it there is an inner space in which atoms vibrate and these vibrations are our feelings. When we see fine art, we vibrate to it. We are moved. When we create art through the discipline of our tradition, we create forms which mirror the vibrations within us. The past becomes the poem; the sculptor becomes the sculpture. We are making images of the best within ourselves. Ours is not a realistic art, but in our sculpture we can give expression to the eternal spirit, and, through symbols, to even the most subtle aspects of Hindu Philosophy.
— Mark Tully quoting an ace traditional Indian sculptor in No full stops in India

How simple is this relationship between the matter and space. I mean the way a simple unitary principle can profoundly manage the whole course of development. There is nothing particularly religious in it, but the way this is being included in cultural tradition in India is worth noting. Like the dimension of the brick that we choose prescribe the dimension of the space of the house. This unity mental concept of space and matter with that of physical one and inherent symmetry is a great achievement of many ancient civilizations. No wonder the science of preparation of Vaidic alters explained in Brahmana texts start with some such basic rules and upon this the whole edifice of Vaidic sacrifice is created.
This lasted long till the barbarity (and resultant thoughts) become the way to achieve success and the unity aspect became a hindrance from point of view of control and success.

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In India there is an insane rush to legislate. Every one knowing well the limitation of law somewhat wants to believe that once a law is passed the particular problem would be fixed.
The problem with the country is lack of faith in the moral and ethical order and it is a natural to a country like India that is fragmented infinitely on levels of Varna, Jaati, religious and lingual affiliations etc. The concept of universal law was brought to India by colonial British power. Before that the Islamic law was different for muslims and non-muslims, the personal law of Hindus was fragmented geographically and Varna to Jaati . There has been a steady decline of national legal frame ever since the demise of the Gupta Empire and with the invasion, assimilation and ascension of numerous tribes in the Hindu society the power and control of internal Jaati legal framework grew stronger. When British took over they almost invented Hindu law from the manuscripts and tradition, and with obvious limitations they started creation of a legal frame work for the country.
The problem with this frame work augmented later because the secular polity envisioned by the Independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was deeply suspicious of the upholders of Hindu religious tradition and perhaps his acceptance of Gandhi also was gingerly if not tactical. Thus the legislative framework of the country developed in ethical and moral apathy. It is no wonder that people like C. Rajgopalachari, Madanmohan Malviya, Rajendra Prasad, Purshottam Das Tondon etc. were not in favour of the then progressive minded congress. A civilization that pondered over ethics and value so abundantly that it sometimes appears their sole concern started nation rebuilding without any hint of values. It was a classic example of throwing baby out with wash water. And country that had undergone devastation under repeated invasions, culturally decimated, learnt the art of inversion to such an excellence that even a most abject slave would be ashamed of. Instead obscene dream based on half-baked ideas of socialism and communism as sold to people as a way to ‘political’ emacipation.
In absence of moral and ethical values a cynical polity, bureaucracy and education system developed hand in hand, with well entrenched vested interests in its continuation. Now when any injustice gathers public attention, the issue is immediately quelled by shrill clamor for harsh legislation. The national commissions for this-and-thats to have started enjoying the nuisance value they create in dyslexic media.
There is neither faith nor conviction, all that exist is opportunism and every next person is ready to compromise upon ‘most cherished value’ for some real or imaginary benefit. And the irony is that unless character is built on values of truth and sacrifice, we will end up in creating insane number of laws and turn more people into law evaders. Law cannot substitute strength of character and conviction.
There is a need to develop a sense of superior moral and ethical value and this cannot be achieved by people who are afraid of death!
Is it really that difficult to stand up against all this and face the world on facts? Yes it is if we value life more than values.

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There is a beautiful Mantra in Taittiriya Upanisad II-VI-I\1 – Asannaiva Sa Bhavati… Tato Vidurati 

Translated it reads: If anyone knows Brahman as non-existing he himself becomes non-existent. If anyone knows that Brahman does exist, then they consider him as existing by virtue of that (knowledge).
From the point of view of variance between Vedic tradition and later day Buddhist school on the concept of reality, this mantra puts forth some important points. It clearly shows an anthropomorphic God is very much a later day creation and that the Vedic tradition’s conception of God is more of cosmic ‘Godliness’ that pervades within and without the creation and existence. Projection of personality over this ‘godliness ‘ through concepts like Avatars and Rupa (abundant in Puranic tales and Bhakti of the dualist school) belongs to much later period.
Both Purva and Uttar Miamansa schools have tried hard to adhere to this Vedic conception. They steadfastly avoid crystalization of abstract concepts ( that is how images of Godhead came into being, example Ganpati Atharvashirsha for Ganesha) while maintaining their focus on more mundane issues at hand and holistic divinity set in the Order (rta) at heart.
It is strange that as far conception of reality is concerned Mimamsakas can be more at ease with the Buddhist school and understand them better than say a dualist school. They are chronologically nearer. while a Brahmin adherent of dualist school (perhaps even giving preponderance to Bhagvata school over Veda in his belief) in all practical sense could be an upholder of Vedic tradition; as belonging to some Vedic Shakha he had to carry forward the Veda of his tradition to his Son/disciple). There are so many overlapping associations and identities, watertight compartmentalization that we find so abundantly in Semitic tradition appear almost absent in India.
Reverting back to the Taittiriya Upanisad quote, the preference of Vedic seer is clear- being non-existence is no virtue. The preponderance to knowledge here implicitly also given greater emphasis on the phenomenal world. But this Vedic world is different from the concept of phenomenal that we are acquainted with. The connectedness of existence its inherent divinity and understanding of reality on three plane – the visible, the divine behind the visible and the unitive behind all – united together is in different from the classification based reality.

I think a very strong criticism against Buddhist school generally missed pertains to this failure of the school to appreciate the unity of existence (that was so much a hallmark of Vedic thought). In fact it is clear that Buddha’s arrived on the scene when the sap from Vedic tradition had almost dried. There were Brahmins who chanting Vedas started claiming to become living Veda and thus God and yet the meanings of the chants were unknown and missing (Yaska), rituals were there but the cosmic connectivity that joined the divine with the mundane was missing; Vedic thoughts existed in various philosophical school but the linking holistic vision had been lost. What wonder if Bhagvata claims Buddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu’s who came to deceive and delude the enemy of gods (from the Vedic rites!). Interestingly the Vedics would have little interest or reverence to a concept of Avatar of Vishnu in the first place.

 

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