Thursday, December 24, 2020

Plato’s Demiurge, Aristotle’s Prime Mover

There is a difference in the way Plato and Aristotle philosophize about the divine principle which creates and maintains the universe. Plato says that the original creator of the universe is a world-architect, while Aristotle says that the original creator is a world-mover. In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato uses the word “Demiurge” to refer to the god who designs and builds the universe from the preexisting chaos. In Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle argues that the prime mover is the first uncaused cause of the universe. Plato’s cosmology is grounded in architecture and craftsmanship, and Aristotle’s in motion and action—this implies, in my opinion, that Plato is inclined towards idealism, and Aristotle towards materialism.

The Complex Foundation of Primitive Societies

The primitive societies were not simple; the Stone Age cultures were built on a complex foundation of systems of beliefs and norms of behavior. The notion of supernatural forces predates religious theory; practical politics predates political theory; the codes of morality and acceptable behavior, predate moral theory; spoken language, predates the rules of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary; creation of various forms of art, predates the theory of aesthetics. Theory does not precede action; in most cases, the theory of any subject is developed centuries or even several millennia after the subject has been acted upon and turned into a fundamental feature of human existence. Every philosophical idea is developed in a social and political context which is a creation of the men of action.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Brief Picture of Man’s Journey From Objectivity to Subjectivity

Objectivity is the natural condition for all creatures on this planet, including man. The pre-civilizational man was naturally objective; he lacked the power to introspect and examine the essence of his being; the outside world was all that he could sense. It is not clear how the first mythological stories got created, but these stories inspired the rise of all kinds of cults and quasi-religious movements, which, in turn, led to the formation of the first tribal communities and then the city-states. The first philosophical theories were born in these primitive tribal communities and city-states. Now man’s mind was being torn between the objective and the subjective. Along with the outside world, there was a second world that he could sense. This was the wondrous world inside him, the world of his being. He was now capable of introspecting, rationalizing, judging, and, in the case of some men of advanced intellect, doubting what their senses were telling them about the outside world. Through the conflict between objectivity and subjectivity, man’s mind kept developing and, over a period of thousands of years, he became capable of creating modern civilization.

The Dating of the Ancient Hindu Texts

The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and many other ancient Hindu texts cannot be dated by using conventional historical methods. Can it be that these texts were intentionally created in a way which ensures that they do not contain any significant historical landmarks through which they can be dated? The names of the creators of these texts is unclear. In his 1899 book The six systems of Indian philosophy, Max Muller writes, “Whatever may be the date of the Vedic hymns, whether 1500 B.C.E. or 15,000 B.C.E., they have their own unique place and stand by themselves in the literature of the world. They tell us something of the early growth of the human mind of which we find no trace anywhere else.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Western Metaphysics and History

The history of the western civilization cannot be understood without an examination of the history of western metaphysics. It is paradoxical but profoundly true that the western nations have stagnated and declined in the times when western metaphysics has moved towards achieving certainty (a realist view of the universe), and they have been full of energy and made great progress in the times when doubt (skepticism) has been the trend in western metaphysics.

On Derrida’s Reading

In a 2003 documentary film called Derrida, the film’s director Amy Ziering Kofman asks Jacques Derrida, “Have you read all the books in here?” (She is referring to Derrida’s personal library.) Derrida’s answer: “No, only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully.”

Who Decides Whether a Philosophy is Open or Closed?

Is the work of a philosopher “open” or “closed”? The answer to this question is the business of the reader, and not of the philosopher and his acolytes. It is the reader who decides, whether the philosophy that he has read is open, which means that it has the potential for further exposition and expansion, or closed, which means that its intellectualism is irrelevant for posterity. In a free society, with a culture of independent thought, every reader will be able to make his own assessment—some might decide that the philosophy has the potential for further development and they might devote themselves to the task, while others might take a different stance. The verdict on any philosophy is never final; as long as the philosophy is still being read, it will continue to evoke all kinds of reactions from readers. Controversy, arguments, expositions, and denunciations constitute the fuel which keep the fires of a philosophy blazing.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Machiavelli on Savonarola, the Unarmed Prophet

Girolamo Savonarola started his movement for religious purity in the last decade of fifteenth century in Florence, a city-state that had prospered under the rule of the Medici family. Encouraged by the initial response that his sermons received from the Florentines, he was convinced that he could use the peoples anger against the religious and political establishment to acquire power in Florence and rest of Italy. But first he had to drive the Medici out of Florence. To weaken the Medici, Savonarola declared a war on their greatest achievement: art. He declared that the art that the Medici were patronizing—many of which consisted of female and male nudes—was a sign of Florentine decadence and debauchery. His followers started rampaging through houses, museums, and gardens for the debouched art that Savonarola had condemned—the climax of the anti-art movement came on 7 February 1497, a day known as the “bonfire of the vanities”. In the center of Florence, Savonarola’s followers burned works of art, literature, and things like mirrors, cards, dice, musical instruments, luxurious garments, and ornaments. But the “bonfire of the vanities” was to be the climax of Savonarola’s political career—he was excommunicated by the Pope on 12 May 1497 and after that the people of Florence turned against him. He was executed on 23 May 1498. Machiavelli, in chapter six of The Prince, says that Savonarola failed because he was an incompetent, ill-prepared and unarmed prophet, unlike Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus. Machiavelli writes: “If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could not have enforced their constitutions for long—as happened in our time to Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believe.”

Faust and the Devil

When Faust, an intellectual based on Goethe, makes a pact with Mephistopheles (an agent of the devil), he knows what he is getting into; he knows that in exchange for Mephistopheles’s aid in achieving his earthly passions, he is giving up his soul (agreeing to serve the devil in hell). There is a great deal of wisdom in Goethe’s play—Faust can be seen as a microcosm for most intellectuals who will eagerly sell their soul, their intellectualism, to the devils of destructive politics, just so that they might achieve their ambitions and passions, and give vent to their earthly prejudices. The pact between the intellectuals and the devil is a fundamental feature of history.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Search for the God of Atheists

The western atheists, armed with Enlightenment intellectualism (which smacks of scientism) and Jacobin revolutionary zeal (which seeks to spill rivers of blood for creating a utopia), abandoned god in the eighteenth century, and since then they have been trying to find someone that they can put in god’s place. In the eighteenth century, they tried Voltaire, Rousseau, and Robespierre; in the nineteenth century, they tried Hegel, Marx, and Engels; in the twentieth century, they tried Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. But these human gods failed to serve as a replacement for the god of paradise. Now we are in the twenty-first century, and the atheists are still questing for an answer to the eighteenth century question: “Who will occupy the space vacated by god?”

On The Five Kinds of Liberals

There are five kinds of liberals in this world: useful idiots, hypocritical idiots, immoral idiots, elitist idiots, and lying idiots.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Decline and Fall of Hollywood

In the twenty-first century, there has been a fundamental change in the perception of Hollywood—the twenty-first century film stars create the impression of being fundamentally hypocritical, coarse, incompetent, and ugly; they are no comparison to the stars of the twentieth century, who created the impression of being fundamentally aristocratic, moral, talented, and beautiful. There cannot be good film stars if society is lacking in good viewers; it seems that the moral and intellectual standards of the viewers in twenty-first century have fallen so low that they have developed an appetite for tripe—apparently, they love to watch the flow of garbage on their TV screens and in cinema theaters. But Hollywood is no longer offering entertainment to people of my tastes; I find most movies and TV serials unbearable.

The Nature of Philosophy

Ninety percent of the good philosophy is translation, exposition, expansion, or refutation of the philosophy of the great philosophers of the past. A learned philosopher would know that the edifice of new philosophy stands on the giant shoulders of the past philosophers, and he would accept as his first duty the task of interpreting the works of those philosophers who precede him in the areas of philosophy that are of significance to him.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Subtle Coup d’état of 21st Century

The time when tyrants used to seize power by taking control of a nation’s military and police is long gone; the coup d'état of twenty-first century does not happen with the intrusion of armed troops, tanks, and fighter planes into the capital city. Now, if you want to seize power in a nation, you take control of its mainstream media; its academia; its big businesses which operate in critical areas like healthcare, art, banking, and digital services; its local community organizations; and its key bureaucracies. In this kind of coup d’état, the transfer of power to the invading political faction happens in a subtle and underhand way, and most people, even those in the government, do not realize, until it is too late, that their way of life is being stolen.

Wisdom is Wiser than Technical Philosophy

Wisdom that comes from practical experience is far more important than technical philosophy which comes from rationalizations and abstractions. Much of twentieth century philosophy is a failure because it is too technical and lacking in practical wisdom. The irony of the twentieth century is that in this period, probably for the first time in history, the non-philosophers, the men of action, started appearing wiser than the philosophers.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Intellectuals and Barbarians: Poison and Medicine

The boundary between medicine and poison is tenuous. The Ancient Greeks used the term “pharmakon” to describe both medicine and poison—closely aligned to “pharmakon” is the Greek term for ritual sacrifice of human victims: “Pharmakos”. In the pharmakos ritual, the Greeks would sacrifice human victims to provide a healing touch (medicine) to their society in the time of a great calamity (famine, plague, civil war, or invasion). The poison-medicine analogy can be used for the intellectuals and barbarians. The intellectuals believe that with their ideas they are protecting (healing) society from the poison of barbarism, but the boundary between intellectuals and barbarians is tenuous. Most intellectuals are barbarians in disguise, and many of those whom they brand as the barbarians are the real intellectuals. History tells us that every great empire is forged by people of barbaric passions and energy, and the decline of a great empire happens when it becomes stable and prosperous and the over-educated and pampered (intellectualized) progeny of the barbarian founders inherit the empire.

Krishna’s First Line in the Mahabharata

Krishna speaks his first line in the Mahabharata in the Adi Parva (Swayamvara Parva) section—the venue is the royal palace where Draupadi’s svayamvara (the ceremony in which a girl of royal bloodline and marriageable age selects her husband from a group of eligible suitors) has been organized. To test the skill, strength, and divine powers of the contestants at the svayamvara, King Draupada, Draupadi’s father, has arranged a device in which a fish revolves above a pool of water. The contestants must string a steel bow, and, while looking into the pond where a reflection of the revolving fish is visible, shoot the fish in the eye with a steel arrow. The one who manages to accomplish this superhuman feat wins Draupadi’s hand in marriage. The five Pandava brothers have arrived at the ceremony disguised as Brahmin priests. When all the contestants fail to string the steel bow and hit the target (or have been disqualified for being lowborn, like Karna), one of the Pandava bothers, Arjuna, picks up the steel bow. He strings it with ease and with gaze fixed on the reflection in the pond, he shoots the steel arrow, which hits the target, the fish’s eye. The kings, princes, demigods, and saints who have arrived at the svayamvara are infuriated to see that a man, who is attired like a Brahmin priest, has managed to accomplish the feat at which all of them have failed. They blame King Draupada for humiliating them by allowing an unknown Brahmin priest to be the winner of the svayamvara. They rush forward to kill him. But to get to King  Draupada they have to pass through the Pandava brothers. 

Here’s an excerpt from the translation of the verses which describe the struggle between the Pandava brothers and their rivals at Draupadi’s svayamvara:

“Then the monarchs with gloved fingers and upraised weapons rushed in anger at the Kuru princes, Bhima and Arjuna, to slay them. Then the mighty Bhima of extraordinary achievements, endued with the strength of thunder, tore up like an elephant a large tree and divested it of its leaves. And with that tree, the strong-armed Bhima, the son of Pritha, that grinder of foes, stood, like unto the mace-bearing king of the dead (Yama) armed with his fierce mace, near Arjuna that bull amongst men. And beholding that feat of his brother, Jishnu of extraordinary intelligence, himself also of inconceivable feats, wondered much. And equal unto Indra himself in achievements, shaking off all fear he stood with his bow ready to receive those assailants.”

At this point, Krishan speaks his first line in the Mahabharata. He is addressing his brother, Balarama, who is pointing out Bhima and Arjuna:

“And beholding those feats of both Jishnu and his brother, Damodara (Krishna) of superhuman intelligence and inconceivable feats, addressing his brother, Halayudha (Valadeva) of fierce energy, said, 'That hero there, of tread like that of a mighty lion, who draweth the large bow in his hand four full cubits in length, is Arjuna! There is no doubt, O Sankarshana, about this, if I am Vasudeva. That other hero who having speedily torn up the tree hath suddenly become ready to drive off the monarchs is Vrikodara! For no one in the world, except Vrikodara, could today perform such a feat in the field of battle. And that other youth of eyes like unto lotus-petals, of full four cubits height, of gait like that of a mighty lion, and humble withal, of fair complexion and prominent and shining nose, who had, a little before, left the amphitheatre, is Dharma's son (Yudhishthira). The two other youths, like unto Kartikeya, are, I suspect, the sons of the twin Aswins. I heard that the sons of Pandu along with their mother Pritha had all escaped from the conflagration of the house of lac.' Then Halayudha of complexion like unto that of clouds uncharged with rain, addressing his younger brother (Krishna), said with great satisfaction, 'O, I am happy to hear, as I do from sheer good fortune, that our father's sister Pritha with the foremost of the Kaurava princes have all escaped (from death)!’"

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

On Good Philosophy

The treasures of good philosophy have to be defended, not against the simple masses but, rather, against the philosophers. Excess of arguments by the philosophers destroys good philosophy, and so does excess of reticence by the philosophers. Good philosophy does not consist only of knowing what people could have done and perhaps should not have done, but also of knowing what they have actually done in the past and why they failed or succeeded.

The Divine is Compassionless

The man who expects the Divine to be compassionate is a sinner who expects the Divine to break His own laws. The notion that the Divine is compassionate is a rumor propagated by the morally degenerate and theologically ignorant religious authorities who want to gain power by selling compassion to the gullible and frightened sinners. The Divine is not compassionate; His standard of justice is immutable. Chance events are possible, but miracles are not.

The Secret Global Society of Liberals

There exists a society of liberals (progressives) with powerful branches in all the major nations throughout the world, and the secret purpose of this society is to spread the rumor that liberalism (progressivism) has a powerful branches in all the major nations throughout the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Fall of Modernity (Umberto Eco’s Words)

“In the past men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its head, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge into the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life, and Martha no longer loves the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothels, Lucretius becomes a women. Everything is on the wrong path.” ~ Umberto Eco’s description of fourteenth century Europe (in his novel The Name of the Rose). Eco's words can easily be used to describe the dilemma of modernity—decades of easy life has imbued people in the major democracies with the notion that the good times will last forever and that it is their birthright to live in a free, prosperous, and stable society; this has turned them into children and dwarfs; they are no longer capable of being handsome and great, and the fate of their civilization is uncertain.

On Socialism’s No Exit Clause

The problem with socialism is that after living for a few years in a socialist country, you suddenly change your mind. “I wish to go back to the chaotic free market ways!” But you can’t—socialism comes with a no exit clause. You can’t exit from socialism until you, and others like you, are ready to fight a civil war, which, history tells us, is rarely successful.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Definition of a Philosopher

I define a philosopher as a man who is moved solely by the desire for the truth, and by the suspicion—which inculcates in him wisdom and the humility which comes with wisdom—that the truth is not what appears to him at this moment.

Media’s Reverse-Midas Touch

Midas had the ability to transform anything he touched into gold. But the mainstream media has a reverse-Midas touch; whatever story they touch transforms into a pile of lies and propaganda.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Veda Vyasa and the Writing of the Mahabharata

Veda Vyasa is the prolific thinker, compiler, and composer of Hindu mythology and philosophy. He classified (“vyasa” means classified) the four Vedas. This explains his name Veda Vyasa. He is the composer of the epic Mahabharata. According to traditional accounts, his composition of the Mahabharata contained 100000 verses, but the extant editions of the Mahabharata do not contain that many verses. The critical edition of the Mahabharata, developed by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), contains around 89000 verses (excluding the Harivamsa). 

After finishing the Mahabharata, Veda Vyasa became engaged with compiling the eighteen Maha Puranas which contain 400000 verses. Another name of Veda Vyasa is Krishna Dvaipayana—the term “Krishna” in his name indicates that he was dark skinned, and the term “Dvaipayana” indicates he was born on an island (“Dvaipa” means island). 

In some versions of the Mahabharata, it is stated that since Veda Vyasa was intimately acquainted with all the characters in the epic, he was asked by Lord Brahma to write the story. Vyasa said that the story was long and complex, and he would require the assistance of a scribe. Lord Brahma then suggested the name of Lord Ganesha. But Lord Ganesha said that he would accept the task on one condition: Vyasa would have to dictate without any break. 

To ensure that his composing of the verses would match the speed of Lord Ganesha’s swift writing, Vyasa put forward the counter-condition that Lord Ganesha would write only after he grasped the meaning of the verses. After every few verses, Vyasa would throw a difficult verse and in the time that it took for Lord Ganesha to grasp its meaning, Vyasa would compose the several new verses in his mind. This explains why the Mahabharata verses are a mix of easy and difficult ones.

The Two Types of Racketeers

A nation is subverted by two types of racketeers: the racketeers of politics and the racketeers of intellectualism (academics, journalists, and celebrities). The boundary between the two types of racketeers is unclear—they are the birds of same feather and always flock together.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Fearsome Mainstream Media

There is no doubt that the mainstream media is warlike, polemical, fearsome—most of the popular journalists are not impartial reporters; they are the frontline fighters for the political and financial establishment. Their real job is to conceal the  establishment’s misdeeds from the eyes of the public and disseminate the establishment’s propaganda. Those who rely solely on the newspapers and TV to keep abreast of current events know nothing except lies and propaganda.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Vampires and the Political Cabal

The vampires feed on the blood of normal humans but they get vaporized in sunlight; they can hunt and thrive only in the darkness. The counterpart of the vampires in the real world is the cabal of corrupt politicians, crony capitalists, and nihilist intellectuals—they too feed on the blood of normal humans and they too thrive in the darkness, when there is lack of transparency. Sunlight is the mortal enemy of the vampires, and transparency is the mortal enemy of the cabal. The vampires cannot stop the sun from rising, and so during daytime, they hide indoors, in caves, forests, or their castles, but if the members of the cabal win in the elections, they gain the power to destroy transparency by subverting the freedom of the people and corrupting the legal and administrative systems. The vampires are not real; the cabal is a reality in every nation.

The Quest for Mathematical Philosophy: Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant

Descartes and Spinoza believed that by following the mathematical method, philosophy would achieve its historical destiny, and provide the certain answers to the metaphysical questions which have been with mankind since ancient times. Kant desired to follow the path of Descartes and Spinoza—though he did not use the mathematical method, he was hopeful that mathematics, science, and philosophy could come together in a “historical singularity” which would create a knowledge revolution. He believed that through mathematics and science, the scope of philosophy could become limitless and infinite possibilities could be created for mankind. 

In his Preface to the Second Edition of his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant writes: 

“In the earliest times to which the history of human reason extends, mathematics, among that wonderful people, the Greeks, had already entered upon the sure path of science. But it must not be supposed that it was as easy for mathematics as it was for logic in which reason has to deal with itself alone to light upon, or rather to construct for itself, that royal road. On the contrary, I believe that it long remained, especially among the Egyptians, in the groping stage, and that the transformation must have been due to a revolution brought about by the happy thought of a single man, the experiment which he devised marking out the path upon which the science must enter, and by following which, secure progress throughout all time and in endless expansion is infallibly secured.”

In the same paragraph, after a few sentences, he writes: 

“A new light flashed upon the mind of the first man (be he Thales or some other) who demonstrated the properties of the isosceles triangle. The true method, so he found, was not to inspect what he discerned either in the figure, or in the bare concept of it, and from this, as it were, to read off its properties; but to bring out what was necessarily implied in the concepts that he had himself formed a priori, and had put into the figure in the construction by which he presented it to himself.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Heidegger’s Fundamental Question

Heidegger’s book “What is called thinking?” is based on a lecture course that he gave in 1951 and 1952. He was looking at the problem of thinking since the 1920s—in the book on which his reputation stands, Being and Time (1927), the fundamental question that he tries to answer is: What is it to think? In my opinion, he fails to answer this question. The question is unanswerable, because it is not possible to comprehend the process of thinking when the self itself is identified through the process of thinking, and the process of thinking is the sole method of gaining knowledge. To know what it is to think, man must first transcend the process of thinking and find another way of identifying his own self and gaining knowledge—but this is not possible.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Philosophers and Their Methods of Philosophizing

Philosophers use various methods to express their philosophy. The dialogue is the oldest method, used by the ancient Greek thinkers like Socrates and Plato. Aristotle does not use the dialogue method—his philosophy comes in the form of lecture notes. Several works of Hegel and Heidegger are in the form of lecture notes. Parmenides and Lucretius use the poetic method. Descartes and Spinoza use the mathematical method. Augustine uses the autobiographical method. In the modern age, some philosophers have devoted years, or even decades, of their life to develop a system of philosophy. Kant’s three Critiques and his works on ethics constitute a philosophical system. Hegel has produced systematic philosophy through multiple works. Schopenhauer devoted much of his life to producing a single work of systematic philosophy, The World as Will and Representation. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness too is a work of systematic philosophy. Cicero, Aquinas, Bacon, Machiavelli, Leibniz, and Rousseau have produced long essays and books, but their work is not systematized—the same is the case with the works of philosophers like MacIntyre and Strauss. Seneca, Aurelius, Voltaire, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Russell, Wittgenstein, Camus, Derrida, and Foucault have philosophized through long and short essays. Several incomplete philosophical works have become immensely influential: for example, Plato’s Critias, Pascal’s Pensées, Marx’s Capital, Heidegger’s Being and Time.

Kant’s Notion of Transcendental Apperception

What we presuppose to know a thing is not known to us as a thing; in other words, the presuppositions of empirical experience are not empirical—they are transcendental. Immanuel Kant’s view of the mind is based on his notion of transcendental apperception, which is not the same as his transcendental idealism. Apperception is the mind’s capacity to judge according to rule; without apperception, perception cannot happen; the act of perception runs parallel to the act of apperception. To perceive a thing, the mind must make a judgement based on certain rules—this is the act of apperception. Transcendental apperception is the mind’s ability to tie together all experience; it implies a unity of the self; the self itself appears as a thing that can be perceived as other things outside the self. Transcendental unity of apperception represents the junction at which the perception of the self and the perception of the things undergo a synthesis—the synthesis is made possible by the categories which unite the self and the things that are being perceived. (Kant uses the terms “unity of consciousness” and “unity of apperception” interchangeably and it seems to mean that a man is consciousness of not just one experience but of many experiences.) Without transcendental unity of apperception, knowledge would be impossible, since we cannot be aware of even the passage of time, an attribute which lies at the root of all experience, and thereby, all knowledge.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Pitfalls of Total Freedom

The liberal and libertarian anarchists demand “total freedom”—freedom from all legal, moral, and political constraints. But to be free from everything is to be alienated from the national culture and be a nothing, and a man who is a nothing can have no values; he cannot have freedom as a value and he is easily enslaved. Thus the liberal and libertarian ideology of “total freedom” has nothing to do with freedom as a value. Rather, it’s an ideology of total enslavement, or fascism and nihilism. Freedom is of value within the framework of a national culture; if it’s made to transcend the nation culture, then it ceases to be a value and becomes a fascistic and nihilistic force which leads to the degradation of all values (legal, moral, and political).

On Vedic and Upanishadic Philosophy

The Vedic Samhitas, especially the Upanishads, can be seen as mankind’s first attempt to develop a theory of the universe and a theory of the moral principles on which virtuous men should ground their way of life. These texts do not offer systematic philosophy or experimental science; they are the outpourings of the philosophical minds which desired to understand how humanity fits into the structure of the universe and tried to find the answers to several fundamental questions in metaphysics, ethics, and politics. But these fundamental questions remain unanswered to this day.

Monday, December 7, 2020

On The Anu-Gita

The Anu-Gita, an ancient treatise on Dharma (morality, ethics, righteousness), is embedded in the Book 14 (Ashvamedhika Parva section) of the Mahabharata. “Anu” is a Sanskrit term which is translated as "continuation, alongside, subordinate to”—thus, the title “Anu-Gita” means a continuation to the Gita (the Bhagavad Gita) which is embedded in the Book 6 (Bhishma Parva section) of the Mahabharata. Here’s a passage from the Anu-Gita which asserts that knowledge is the only value that is endless:

Days end with the sun’s setting, and nights with the sun’s rising;
the end of pleasure is always sorrow, and the end of sorrow is always pleasure.
All associations have dissociations for their end, and life has death for its end;
All action ends in destruction, and all that is born certainly dies.
Everything is transient, everything ends;
Only of knowledge, there is no end.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala

In the Mahabharata, the story of Dushyanta, king of Hastinapur, and Shakuntala, daughter of Rishi Vishwamitra and the apsara (angel) Menaka, is described in the Adi Parva (Sambhava Upa-parva) section. Dushyanta is on a tour in the forest and he reaches Rishi Kanva’s hermitage where he encounters Shakuntala who is a great beauty. For the king, it’s love at first sight. Here’s an excerpt from the exchange between Dushyanta and Shakuntala:

Dushyanta said to Shakuntala: “Marry me according to the Gandharva form, for this form of marriage is said to be the best.”
Shakuntala: “O king, my father has gone from the hermitage to collect fruits. Kindly wait for a moment. He will bestow me upon you.”
Dushyanta: “O beautiful lady, O faultless beauty, I desire you yourself should accept me. Know that I exist for you. Know also, my heart is completely in you, One is certainly one's own friend, one can certainly depend on one's own self, Therefore, according to the ordinance (scriptures), you yourself should bestow your own self on others.”

Dushyanta and Shakuntala have a Gandharva marriage (in Hindu law, Gandharva marriage is contracted by mutual consent and without formal rituals). Soon it’s time for Dushyanta to leave for Hastinapur—he gives Shakuntala his ring as a proof of their marriage, and promises that he will return to take her to his kingdom. One day, Rishi Durvasa, known for his temper, arrives at the hermitage, but Shakuntala, being engaged in thinking about Dushyanta. forgets to serve food to Durvasa. In a fit of anger, Durvasa curses Shakuntala that the man, whose thoughts fill her mind, will forget her. Shakuntala is shocked; she pleads for mercy. Durvasa relents and proclaims that her man will remember her when she shows him the proof of their marriage.   

After that Shakuntala leaves for Hastinapur, carrying with her the ring that Dushyanta had given her. She hopes that Dushyanta will remember her when she shows him the ring. But on the way she has an accident and a fish swallows the ring. Now Shakuntala has no proof of her marriage with Dushyanta. When she arrives in Hastinapur, Dushyanta does not recognize her. But a sage who has managed to recover the ring from the fish arrives at the king’s court. Once Dushyanta sees the ring, his memory is rekindled and he remembers Shakuntala. 

There is a royal marriage between Dushyanta and Shakuntala, who becomes the queen of Hastinapur. Their son Bharata becomes the founder of the Kuru Dynasty and the ancestor of the Pandava and the Kaurava clans.

The Banana Peel Republics

The atrocious way in which America has conducted its elections, makes it seem like a banana republic. If this country becomes an actual banana republic, then what happens to the nations which have traditionally enjoyed the status of banana republics—their standards must decline further; they might soon be known as the banana peel republics. When America is the world’s banana republic, banana peel is all that will be left for the traditional banana republics. But America will still be the superpower, since a banana will always rank higher than a banana peel.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Victory Often Comes to the Lying Side

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” said Mark Twain more than one hundred years ago, but in the twenty-first century, thanks to the digital technologies, a lie can travel around the world several times while truth is putting on its shoes. The standards for assessing the available evidence and deciding what is the truth and what is moral are today poorer than in the time of Twain, so the falsehoods are now far easier to propagate. Those who control the information flow on the Internet (political establishments, media houses, tech companies, and academics) can sell any lie, subvert any moral norm—they can conjure a worldwide pandemic out of thin air; they can distort election results not only in the banana republics but also in the advanced republics; they can persuade most people to believe that productivity leads to destruction of the natural environment, and liberty leads to repression of the weaker racial groups. By the time, a significant number of people realize what is going on, the game of lies has already been played and it’s too late to change the outcome.

Draupadi’s Rejection of Karna: from Ramesh Chandra Dutt’s Mahabharata

In his poetic translation of the Mahabharata called The Mahabharata: The Epic of Ancient India, Ramesh Chandra Dutt (1848 – 1909) gives an interesting account of Draupadi’s svayamvara (the ceremony in which a girl of royal bloodline and marriageable age selects a husband from a group of eligible suitors). Here’s an excerpt in which Draupadi is rejecting Karna, by declaring that she will not wed a lowborn—this ensures that Karna does not have the opportunity to prove his talent in archery: 

Uprose Karna‚ peerless archer, proudest of the archers he,

And he went and strung the weapon, fixed the arrows gallantly, 

Stood like Surya in his splendor and like Agni in his flame,— 
Pandu's sons in terror whispered, Karna sure must hit the aim! 

But in proud and queenly accents Drupad's queenly daughter said: 
'Monarch's daughter, born a Kshatra, Suta's son I will not wed.’ 

Karna heard with crimsoned forehead, left the emprise almost done, 
Left the bow already circled, silent gazed upon the Sun!

Friday, December 4, 2020

The Unending Political Battles

"We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather bed.” ~ Thomas Jefferson. To Jefferson’s saying, I will add that we cannot expect to sustain a culture of liberty in a feather bed. If people desire to keep their country free, they have to push back against the designs of the despots day after day. Conserving a society is a relentless struggle; the political fight never ends. No society can reach a stage where there is a Hegelian style “end of history”—ideological and strategic evolution of both sides, the side of liberty and the side of despotism, will never end; it will go on relentlessly till there are humans on earth.

The First Verse of the Mahabharata

The critical edition of the Mahabharata developed by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) is collated from 1,259 ancient manuscripts and consists of 18 Parvas and more than 89000 verses (excluding the Harivamsa). The Institute began its project for creating a critical edition on 1 April 1919 and the project was completed on 22 September 1966. The work on Harivamsa took another five years, and was completed in November, 1971.

Here’s the opening mantra of the Mahabharata

नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरोत्तमम्
देवीं सरस्वतीं चैव ततो जयम् उदीरयेत् 

Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted male being,
and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya (victory) be uttered.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Theism and Liberty

"What light is to the eyes—what air is to the lungs—what love is to the heart, Liberty is to the soul of man." ~ Robert Ingersoll’s famous line. The leftists, liberals, and libertarians reject this view of liberty because they are atheists; they don’t believe in the existence of the divine and the soul. Liberty is a value within the framework of the moral values which are derived from the religious teachings—outside the framework of the religious moral values, liberty is destructive. Ingersoll was an agnostic with which I can empathize, since the divine is unknown and unknowable, but religion, which is founded on the desire to approach the divine, is tangible; its theological philosophy can be a tool for personal and social growth. To reject religion altogether, when you belong to a culture whose religious tradition stretches back to more than two thousand five hundred years, is to reject all of past intellectualism and tradition—all philosophy, science, political theory, and art—and embrace moral nihilism and political corruption.

The Concept of Svayambhu

Every effect has a cause. An unending series of causes has led to the world of plurality that exists today. But in philosophy, we have to theorize about a first cause. Aristotle theorized that the universe began with the Prime Mover, which is itself uncaused. In Hindu philosophy, the concept of Svayambhu is used to describe the first cause. While every effect has a cause, Svayambhu is uncaused by any cause other than itself. “Svayambhu” is a Sanskrit word created from two terms: “svayam,” which means self; “bhu,” which means manifested or arising. Thus Svayambhu is generally translated as "self-manifested", "self-existing", or "created by its own accord”. In the Vedic and Puranic texts, there are the descriptions of the rise of Svayambhu Manu, who is the first man. Some verses describe Krishna as Svayambhu, the self-manifested.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The American Elections

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” ~ Lord Acton’s best known line. In retrospect, it becomes obvious that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 has had a negative impact on the USA—it resulted in the USA acquiring absolute power over the world and becoming absolutely corrupted. Now the situation is so bad that the Americans can’t even hold a proper election. In the recent election, there are so many glaring anomalies in the voting and vote-counting processes that you need to be a truly gullible and ignorant (or biased and corrupt) person to believe in the results that the mainstream media is touting—the official results are yet to be declared. Only seventeen years ago, the Americans had marched into Iraq with the purported aim of creating a democratic utopia there—they wanted to teach the Iraqis how to hold proper elections, but in 2020, they have botched their own election. Henceforth, the USA will not have the moral authority to preach democratic values to other nations.

The Concept of “Sat-cid-ananda”

In the Vedanta tradition, the Brahman, who is the unchanging reality or the prime mover and creator of the universe, is related to the concept of “sat-cid-ananda”—“sat” means being, existence, or truth; “cid” means consciousness or awareness; “ananda” means happiness, joy, or bliss. Thus “sat-cid-ananda” can be translated as being, consciousness, and bliss. The references to these three attributes of the Brahman can be found in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, and other ancient texts. There are many popular theistic traditions which relate “sat-cid-ananda” to Vishnu, Shiva, and Krishna. Since the Vedanta traditions are mostly monistic, they relate “sat-cid-ananda” to the Brahman.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Metaphysics of Shankara and Kant

There are similarities in the metaphysics of Immanuel Kant and Shankara, the philosopher and theologian of Advaita Vedanta, who is generally placed in the 7th century AD (some scholars place him in the 5th century BC). Kant has basically theorized that the reality has two components: the phenomenal world and the noumenal world—the first is the world that we perceive (the world that exist inside our own minds and can be experienced); the second is the world of things outside our own minds (this is the world of things as they really are, but our mind lacks the capacity to comprehend this world). Shankara divides the reality into two categories: Vyavaharika and Paramarthika—the first is the reality that corresponds to our phenomenal experiences and exists inside our own mind; the second is the reality of what truly exists, which is the Brahman, the ultimate mover and creator of the universe, that encompasses everything that exists. It’s noteworthy that Shankara’s two categories of the reality are meant to establish his monistic and religious position of one ultimate reality consisting of the Bahaman; Kant, on the other hand, is not openly a monistic (though there are traces of monism in his thought) and he is trying to develop a secular interpretation of reality.

The Philosophical Mind Versus the Non-philosophical Mind

It cannot be philosophically demonstrated that things exist outside the perceivers mind and that the information received from the senses is a reflection of the true reality and not an illusion. But a non-philosophical mind is never plagued with doubts about the reality of existence—it plays the game of life without questioning the senses. It’s only the philosophical mind that is capable of doubting the senses and treating existence with skepticism. A philosophical mind is a rare entity; majority of the people are non-philosophical—they plunge headlong into the game of living the life of laborers, farmers, soldiers, scientists, businessmen, politicians, etc., without being plagued with philosophical doubt. The tendency towards philosophical doubt is not only the trait of the philosophical mind but also the fountainhead of philosophy.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Gaudapada and Buddhism

The Advaita Vedanta philosopher Gaudapada has used words like “Buddha,” “Asparsayoga,” and “Agrayana” in a few verses in his Māṇdūkya Kārikā which is a metrical commentary on the Māṇdūkya Upaniṣad—this has led many scholars to suggest that Gaudapada was either influenced by Mahayana Buddhism or was a Buddhist philosopher. But this is denied by the scholars of the Advaita Vedanta school. They assert that Gaudapada is not referring to the traditional founder of Buddhism when he uses the word “Buddha.” He is denoting the knower of the truth. 

On the usage of “Asparsayoga,” they say that this term is not the same as the Buddhist concept of “Nirvana”— “Asparsayoga” in Advaita Vedanta tradition means the state of bliss that is achieved when there is no contact (no sparsa) of the senses with their objects but only with the self or the atman. It certainly cannot mean nirvana, which in the Buddhist tradition means total oblivion—the presence of the term “yoga” in “Asparsayoga” indicates that this concept is not pointing towards oblivion but at the attainment of Ultimate Reality which is the Brahman (the underlying principle of the universe). It is suggested that the word “Agrayana” (which Gaudapada uses only once in his Kārikā, in the verse 90) denotes Mahayana, a major school of Buddhism, but the Advaita Vedanta school holds that Gaudapada’s usage of the word has nothing to do with Mahayana. He means “Prathamatah,” that is, in the first place. 

Gaudapada’s dates are mired in controversy—he has been placed between the 5th and 7th centuries AD on the basis of the general consensus that his great follower Shankara was born in 788 AD. But some scholars have used historical references to place Shankara in the second century BC—if this is true, then Gaudapada could be a predecessor to the Mahayana Buddhist thinkers like Nagarjuna. In his work, Shankara has tried to move Advaita Vedanta away from Buddhism by noting the differences between the two schools—for instance, in his commentary on the Katha Upaniṣad, Shankara notes that while Hinduism believes in the existence of the atman (soul), Buddhism denies it.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Bhagavad Gita and the Isa Upanisad

Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna on the Bhagavad Gita at the battlefield of Kurukshetra can be seen as a revival of the knowledge that he had taught long ago to Vivasvan, the Sun God. Krishna reveals this in verse 4.1 of the Bhagavad Gita: “I taught this eternal science of Yoga to the Sun-god, Vivasvan, who passed it on to Manu; and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” Vivasvan is believed to be the teacher of Yajnavalkya, the sage of the Shukla Yajur Veda. Thus, the disciple of Krishna is the teacher of Yajnavalkya. The connection between Krishna and Yajnavalkya through Vivasvan is often seen as the cause of the similarities in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and the Isa Upanisad, which is the final chapter of the Shukla Yajur Veda. There are eighteen chapters in the Bhagavad Gita, and the Isa Upanisad contains eighteen verses—devotion to Krishna is the theme of both texts. Here’s the famous first verse of the Isa Upanisad: “All this, everything that moves in this moving world must be pervaded by the lord. Enjoy what has been renounced, but do not desire the wealth of others.”

The Mainstream Media Does Not Have Our Trust

A strong structure cannot be created with substandard bricks; a free media cannot be created when journalists have an ideological bias or are in bed with tyrants and oligarchs. Humberto Fontova’s book The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro is revealing of the corruption and biases in the topmost media houses. Fontova quotes Castro as saying, “Without the help of The New York Times, the revolution in Cuba would never have been,” during an April 1959 meeting with Herbert Matthews, the New York Times journalist, who was a confidant and supporter of the Castro regime. It's certain that without the support of the mainstream media, communism and its sister movements, socialism, liberalism, and environmentalism, could not have been the dominant ideologies of the world. The mainstream media misinforms people instead of informing them.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Rousseau, Napoleon, and the Politics of Religion

Rousseau’s teachings inspired not only the Jacobins who spearheaded the bloody French Revolution but also the dictator who came to power after the Jacobins had self-destructed: Napoleon. Early in his life, Napoleon was influenced by Rousseau’s teaching that religion is dangerous since it exists in competition with the state—religion promises happiness in the other world when the state is responsible for providing the means of achieving happiness in this world. At the beginning of the French Revolution, Napoleon, then a young artillery lieutenant, wrote, “Dear Rousseau why was it necessary that you have lived only for sixty years! For the interest of the virtue, you had had to be immortal.” Napoleon was as much influenced by the atheistic and anti-tradition political thought of the Enlightenment as the Jacobins were, but after Napoleon acquired power, he had a change of heart—he realized that if he tried to suppress religion, he would lose support of the people and then his government might be overthrown like the government of the Jacobins was; so he re-established the traditional practice of religion. Jean Chaptal, Napoleon’s minister for Internal Affairs said: "The boldest operation that Bonaparte carried out during the first years of his reign was to re-establish worship upon its old foundations.”

On Solzhenitsyn’s View Of Communism

"For us in Russia, communism is a dead dog, while, for many people in the West, it is still a living lion,” said Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a BBC radio broadcast on 15 February 1979. I believe that in the West, communism will never be seen as a dead dog; this is because, communism is a “child” of the West, it’s a wholly Western philosophy and movement; it was founded and propagated by Western intellectuals, politicians, oligarchs, and trade unionists who operated from London, Berlin, Paris and other Western cities. The Western nations could avoid communism because they were aware of the pernicious nature of this ideology; they knew that communism had the potential to cause massive violence and bring a cruel totalitarian regime into power. The Russians, in the early decades of the 20th century, had no knowledge of communism—unlike the Western countries, they didn’t have the intellectuals and politicians who could refute the communist arguments and warn them about the great destructive power of the communist ideology, so it was easy for Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin to con the Russians into believing that communism would transform their country into a paradise. After the First World War, communism spread into Russia like a killer virus and devastated the lives of several generations.

Friday, November 27, 2020

On the Navya-Nyaya Theory of Language

The Navya-Nyaya school holds that spoken language is the primary language since it’s logically prior to written language. The language of gestures precedes spoken language—it’s something that the humans have learned from the animals which use bodily signs to communicate with each other without creating any sound. Written language is of critical importance because it enables people to create long sentences, express complicated ideas, and gain better understanding of the meaning of the spoken words, but, like the language of gestures in case of human beings, it exists parasitically on spoken language. The Navya-Nyaya philosophers accept the old Nyaya belief that Sanskrit is a divine language bequeathed to humanity by the Brahman who is the prime mover of the universe—the Brahman is the creator of the objects in the universe and he has delineated the relationship between meaning and the objects. The spoken words are merely sounds; they become language when they are endowed with meaning—this task, according to the theorists of the Navya-Nyaya school, was accomplished by the will of the Brahman. The references to the Brahman as the creator of world’s languages (mainly Sanskrit) lead to the conclusion that the languages, according to the Nyaya philosophers, are a product of nature and not convention.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Edmund Burke: The Political Thinker of Modern Age

Edmund Burke is the most important political thinker of the modern age not only because he is the founder of modern conservatism, a movement which, in the last two hundred years, has led to major advancements in almost every country where it has gained support of a significant section of the population, but also because he saw further than most political thinkers of his time. He commented on the problems in the thought of Voltaire and Rousseau in the 1780s and 90s when they were being worshipped as the prophets of “rational” politics by his contemporaries in Europe, and, in his book Reflections on the Revolution in France, he predicted the failure of the French Revolution which was being driven by their ideas. Here’s an excerpt from a letter that Burke wrote in January 1790: "Such masters, such scholars. Who ever dreamt of Voltaire and Rousseau as legislators? The first has the merit of writing agreeably; and nobody has ever united blasphemy and obscenity so happily together. The other was not a little deranged in his intellects, to my almost certain knowledge. But he saw things in bold and uncommon lights, and he was very eloquent.”

The Dialectical Method of Hindu Philosophy

One of the hallmarks of Hindu philosophy is its dialectical methodology—the philosophers are devoted to establishing their philosophical positions, but they treat the views of their opponents with respect. Several schools of philosophy have been existence for more than 2500 years and they have always had significant philosophical differences but each school formulates its arguments after listening to the arguments from the other schools. The dialectical method of philosophical discussion proceeds through three steps, namely Purvapaksa, Khandana, and Uttarapaksa. The philosopher begins by stating the views of his opponents—known as the Purvapaksa. After that he offers the refutation for the arguments of his opponents—known as the Khandana. Finally, he offers his own theory—known as the Uttarapaksa (in some texts Uttarapaksa is described as Siddhanta or conclusion).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Carvaka View of the Four Purusarthas

Out of the four Purusarthas, which are used by the ancient Hindu texts to define the ultimate objectives of life, the Carvakas (the school of empiricists and materialists) accept only two. They accept Artha (prosperity, economic values) and Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values), and reject Dharma (virtue and moral values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values). They reject Dharma because it’s based on the teachings of the scriptures whose authority, they maintain, cannot be accepted by rational men, and they reject Moksha because it entails release from the materialistic entanglements, which, they claim, can be attained only on death and no one who loves life would devote himself to ending his own life. The Carvakas maintain that the purpose of life is attainment of the worldly pleasures, and they preach that Artha (prosperity and economic values), and Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) are the only ends that rational men would strive for. The Carvaka position is similar to that of the Epicureans of Ancient Greece.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Machiavelli: Unarmed are Despised

In The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli writes, “For among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised." He is right—no one respects the unarmed and weak.

On Political Battles

A political party inclined towards moralism, traditions, rule of law, and economic progress is likely to be vanquished by a political party inclined towards nihilism, contempt for traditions and the constitution, and economic decline, if both enjoy approximately the same amount of support in society. In politics, the virtuous and development oriented people are rarely victorious, generally it’s the most ruthless, cunning, deceitful, destructive, and evil who win. To predict the outcome of an election, look for the candidates who have the morals, intelligence, and survival instincts of the “hungry hyenas”—they are likely to win.

Metaphysics is Rationalistic

Every metaphysical theory in the history of philosophy is a rationalistic system—this is because, the metaphysical theories are established by reasoning, and they cannot be proved or disproved by perception and experimentation. These theories have to be accepted or rejected on the basis of faith and arguments. In the Advaita Vedanta, the Upanishadic saying, “Sarvam khalvidam Brahman neha nanasti kinchana,” is used to argue about the falsity of the world and establish that nothing exists except the Brahman which is the supreme soul or the universal spirit, and the prime mover of the universe. But this is a metaphysical position which cannot be proved or disproved—this position has to be accepted or rejected on the basis of faith and arguments.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Importance of Philosophical Skepticism

Skepticism is an antidote for the pitfalls of dogmatism and cultism. Skepticism creates fresh philosophical problems which compel the philosophers to give up dogmatism and cultism and question the soundness of the established viewpoints—they start taking a critical and analytic approach and come up with new theories. Kant was acknowledging his debt to skepticism when he said, “Hume’s skepticism arose me from my dogmatic slumber.” Skepticism is the cry of a free mind. The philosophers who outrightly reject skepticism are not free minds.

The Doctrine of Purusarthas

In Hindu philosophy, the doctrine of purusartha defines the ultimate objectives of life. The four purusarthas are: Dharma (virtue, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values). Most modern scholars insist that Dharma is the primary purusartha, or the purusartha which brings meaning and significance to the three other purusarthas, but the truth is that the primacy of any purusartha has not been established in the ancient texts. In the Mahabharata (Santiparva, Adhyaya 161), Yudhishtira asks his brothers to name the purusartha which they believe is the highest. Arjuna says that Artha is the highest; Bhima favors Kama, which he insists contains the essence of both Dharma and Kama; Nakula and Sahadeva are supportive of Arjuna’s position that Artha is the highest, though they add some modifications of their own. Vidura, the uncle of the Pandavas (and the Kauravas), gives a short speech to explain the tenets of Dharma. Finally Yudhishtira speaks—he dwells on the transcendence of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha, but, perhaps since he never lies, he admits that he does not know which purusartha is the highest or if there is any hierarchy among the purusarthas. This discussion between the Pandava brothers happens after the great Kurukshetra war.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Decline of British and American Empires

The generation that comes of age, when the empire’s political, economic, technological, and military power is at the peak, usually presides over its decline and fall. This trend can be seen in several empires in the last 2500 years—the British and American Empires being the recent examples. The generation of English people born between 1890 and 1920 inherited the British Empire that spanned the globe; the saying was popular that the sun never set on the British Empire. But by the 1940s, the British Empire was lost; it was reduced to what it had been before the Age of Imperialism, a tiny island. The boomers, the Americans born from 1946 to 1964, inherited the American Empire when it was at its peak; I believe, the American Empire peaked around 1980; since then it has been steadily declining, and in 2020, it has fallen. The boomers have raised the millennial generation which is naive, nihilistic, and indoctrinated with false ideologies—under the millennials, there is no chance of an American comeback.

Performance of Duty is the Fulfillment

Karmanyeva adhikaraste, ma phaleshu kada chana; Ma karma phala hetur bhurh, ma te sangostva akarmani,” Krishna says to Arjuna in the famous verse 2.47 of the Bhagavad Gita. While a man is free to choose the actions which he will perform, he lacks the power to determine the fruits of those actions. He is the cause of his actions, but he is not the cause of the consequences of those actions. A moral man will not be paralyzed by the thoughts of the consequences of his actions; he will not be deterred from the performance of his duties. The action, or the performance of the duty, is, by itself, a source of fulfillment for him.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Crooked Timber of Humanity

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” ~ Immanuel Kant in his essay, “Idea for a General History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” (1784). These are wise words from Kant—the timber of humanity is crooked and the proof of that is the conduct of the democratic nations in the year 2020. What have these nations not done to destroy their healthcare, economy, social life, and political culture? There are still around forty days remaining in this year which, I think, history will record as the annus horribilis—what else will these nations do in the remaining forty days to self-destruct even more thoroughly and bring even greater misery on their population? Perhaps in the next five to ten years the world will not be divided between the advanced, developing, and third world nations—every nation will become a dystopia of poverty, shabbiness, corruption, and hopelessness. But look at the bright picture: there will be equality among the nations, since all will be equally miserable.

The Fable of the Bees: The Importance of Vices

In his 1714 book The Fable of The Bees, Mandeville describes a society of bees which takes the collective decision to ground its way of life on the ideas of reason, morality, discipline, and honesty. Initially the bees seem to do well but eventually their culture collapses into a dystopia from which they never recover. The moral of Mandeville’s story is that in order to survive and thrive, a society needs not just the virtues but also a range of vices: the bonds of selfishness, envy, competition, mysticism, and exploitation. The book ends with these famous lines:

Bare Virtue can't make Nations live
In Splendor; they, that would revive
A Golden Age, must be as free,
For Acorns, as for Honesty.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Orwell’s Dystopia

Who would like to live in the dystopia that George Orwell has described in 1984? I believe that there are a large number of people who are so full of hate and anger that they constantly dream of dragging all of humanity into a society where everything is shabby, incompetent, and corrupt, and a supreme leader called Big Brother is worshipped as the one true god; where the elite section of the population is under constant surveillance, and faces an insane amount of discipline, draconian austerities and restrictions, and the threat of arrest, brutal torture, and execution. Only the proles enjoy a limited amount of freedom because they are too immoral, unambitious, and ignorant to be a threat to the state—they are allowed to live and rot in squalid slums built on the fringes of the cities. The political method of the dystopia is laid down by the arch-villain O’Brien: “Men are infinitely malleable.” The novel ends when O’Brien manages to mold the novel’s hero Winston Smith into thinking: “He loved Big Brother.”

The World is Topsy-turvy

Nothing is more collectivist than a movement of individualists. Nothing is more illiberal than a movement of intellectuals, politicians, and activists who flaunt the “halo” of liberalism. Nothing is more theocratic and fundamentalist than a movement of atheists. Nothing distorts, falsifies, and throttles the news more than the mainstream media that sees itself as the “almighty” of news. Nothing is more socialist and statist than a super-large privately owned multinational corporation.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Bhagavad Gita: On the Striving for Perfection

“Among thousands of men perhaps one strives for perfection, and among thousands of those who strive perhaps one knows me in truth,” Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. From this line, I infer that man is not a creature of pure reason (faith plays a critical role in his life), he is not born for total freedom (he is a political and social animal), and he is not designed by nature for materialistic perfection. The attempts of the atheists to perfect themselves always fail—instead of becoming better people, they worsen their own life and that of others around them whenever they strive for materialistic perfection. But those people, whose desire for perfection is fuelled by the moral and transcendental knowledge that comes from an understanding of theological philosophy, might achieve success in perfecting themselves.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Prejudices and Power

Prejudices die hard, and the prejudices of the liberal elites, who control all the levers of political power, die harder still.

Hindu Philosophy of Moksa

Moksa (salvation or liberation) is not the only concern of Hindu philosophy but it is one of the chief concerns. Since the Vedic age, the Hindu teachers have been conjecturing about the ways of attaining moksa. The six schools of Hindu philosophy present varying concepts of moksa. The Sankhya school, being jnana yoga, preaches moksa through metaphysical knowledge. The Yoga school, being dhyana yoga, preaches that moksa comes through meditation and asceticism. The Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools see knowledge as the path to moksa. 

The passage 1.1.4 in the Vaisesika-sutra says: “The Supreme Good (moksa) comes from the knowledge, produced by a particular dharma, of the essence of the Predicables, Substance, Attribute, Action, Genus, Species, and Combination, by means of their resemblances and differences.” The passage 1.1.1 in Nyaya-sutra says: “Moksa is attained by the true knowledge of the means of right cognition, the objects of such cognition, doubt, purpose, instance, conclusion, discussion, debate, sophistry, fallacy, quibbling, faulty reasoning, and losing (a debate).” 

The Mīmāṃsā school insists that moksa cannot come through knowledge alone, for the individual must first perform all the actions which are good (in line with the teachings of the Vedas). The schools of Vedanta hold that moksa means being embraced and subsumed into the Brahman (the ultimate principle of the universe) and this end can be achieved by following the teachings of the Upaniṣads.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Brief History of History

History in the true sense is the story of the political communities which were formed through the bonds language, geography, culture, religion, and nationhood. The term “history” arises from within the Western civilization; the ancient Greek thinkers like Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and Plutarch were the world’s first historians—through their work the method of recording, analyzing, and understanding the past (writing history) has developed. Since the time of Herodotus, the historians have been playing a critical role in the evolution of Western philosophy, politics, and culture. During the Age of Imperialism (1750 to 1940s), while the Western governments were conquering colonies, their historians were engaged in investigating and analyzing the past of these colonies—they produced a massive collection of books and papers on the history of the Asian, South American, and North African nations. Today people in most parts of the world understand their past through the work that the Western historians did during the Age of Imperialism. The art of writing history is a unique achievement of the West.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Wisdom of Somerset Maugham

Hans Christian Andersen is right—it takes a childlike mind to recognize that the Emperors wear no clothes and that worthless banalities often masquerade as profound political and philosophical wisdom. Here’s a wise perspective from W. Somerset Maugham about the real state of the world (from The Moon and Sixpence): “The world is hard and cruel. We are here none knows why, and we go none knows whither. We must be very humble. We must see the beauty of quietness. We must go through life so inconspicuously that Fate does not notice us. And let us seek the love of simple, ignorant people. Their ignorance is better than all our knowledge. Let us be silent, content in our little corner, meek and gentle like them. That is the wisdom of life.”

The Vedic Quest for The Truth

The Vedic sages understood that certainty is not possible to man and that the quest for the truth is eternal. They believed that the truth is not the characteristic of the alienated, dogmatic, and misanthropic but of the free spirited and joyous people who are ready to examine all sides of an issue. They kept their traditions oral and sang their hymns of the truth in the open—because they realized that any truth cannot have the potential to become the truth until it’s openly and clearly articulated in presence of everyone who would care to listen. The ultimate philosophical and religious message of the Bhagavad Gita is revealed by Krishna to Arjuna when both were situated between two great armies in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. This signifies that people tend to discover the truth when they are engaged in performing their worldly duties and fighting for the just causes. After listening to Krishna’s message, Arjuna says (verse 73): “By your grace, (my) delusion is gone; and I have gained recognition (of myself). Acyuta (Krishna), I remain as one from whom all doubts are gone. I will do what you say.”

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Philosophies Which Fuel the Major Civilizations

The philosophies which possess the capacity to fuel the major civilizations are grounded in the entirety of human experience—this means that they are not purely scientific nor are they grounded in pure reason; their philosophical positions emerge from the human experience in the areas of science, mathematics, mysticism, logic, religion, arts, theology, history, scholasticism, idealism, politics, and psychology. Greater the civilization, greater is the depth and diversity of its philosophy. Philosophies like communism, libertarianism, and neo-liberalism are incapable of fueling the major civilizations because the roots of their philosophy do not go deep enough; they are too superficial; they cannot bridge the gap between science and faith, and traditionalism and change—they create their utopian vision by taking into account only the superficial aspects of human experience and they ignore and disparage everything else.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The River Sarasvati

The Rig Veda contains several hymns which depict Sarasvati as an important river and deity. But the location of this river is unknown. Some archeologists suggest that Sarasvati dried between 3000 BC and 1800 BC. Prof. Michael Witzel is of the view that the Vedic Sarasvati River is the cosmic river of the Milky Way which the ancient sages saw as the “road to immortality and heaven.”

The fifth verse in the hymn 10.75 of the Rig Veda associates Sarasvati with Ganga and Yamuna and some scholars use it to speculate about the river’s geographical location:

Here, o Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati—attend on this praise of mine, o Śutudrī, Paruṣṇī. 
With the Asiknī, o Marudvr̥ dhā, with the Vitastā, o Ārjīkīyā, harken, with the Suṣomā.

The seventh verse in the same hymn depicts Sarasvati as a beautiful woman:

Straight in her course, mottled, glistening, in her greatness she holds encircled the expanses, the dusky realms— 
the undeceivable Sindhu, busiest of the busy, dappled-bright like a mare, lovely to see like a beautiful woman. 

The hymn 7.95 describes the beauty of the river’s flow and the fertility and life that she brings:

1. She has flowed forth with her surge, with her nourishment—Sarasvati is a buttress, a metal fortress. 
Thrusting forward all the other waters with her greatness, the river drives like a lady-charioteer. 

2. Alone of the rivers, Sarasvati shows clear, as she goes gleaming from the mountains all the way to the sea. 
Taking note of the abundant wealth of the world, she has milked out ghee and milk for the Nāhuṣa. 

3. He has grown strong as a manly one among maidens, a bullish bull calf among the (river-maidens) worthy of the sacrifice. 
He provides a prizewinner to the benefactors. He should groom his body for winning. 

4. And this Sarasvati, the well-portioned, will harken to this sacrifice of ours, taking pleasure in it, 
being implored by reverential ones with their knees fixed. With wealth as her yokemate, she is even higher than her companions. 

5. Here are (oblations) being poured all the way to you (rivers), along with reverences. Take pleasure in the praise, Sarasvati. 
Being set in your dearest shelter, may we stand nearby it like a sheltering tree. 

6. And this Vasiṣṭha here has opened up the doors of truth for you, well-portioned Sarasvati. 
Strengthen, resplendent one; grant prizes to the praiser. – Do you protect us always with your blessings.

In the post-Vedic period, new attributes were added to Sarasvati and she became the multitalented goddess of wisdom and patroness of arts.

(Translations of the Rig Veda hymns by Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton, OUP, 2014)

Alexander and the Indian Philosophers

The story of Alexander’s encounter with a group of fifteen Indian philosophers (described by Plutarch in his Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans – the Life of Alexander, 64) is definitely a historical fact because it was recorded by a man who was present at the scene, Onesicritus, the Cynic philosopher who had accompanied Alexander on his campaign in Asia. Probably with the help of interpreters, Alexander asked the Indian philosophers a series of questions, which were essentially difficult riddles whose answers had to be ambiguous. Here’s an excerpt from Plutarch’s description of the encounter: 

“He [Alexander] captured ten of the gymnosophists who had done most to get Sabbas to revolt, and had made the most trouble for the Macedonians. These philosophers were reputed to be clever and concise in answering questions, and Alexander therefore put difficult questions to them, declaring that he would put to death him who first made an incorrect answer, and then the rest, in an order determined in like manner; and he commanded one of them, the oldest, to be the judge in the contest. The first one, accordingly, being asked which, in his opinion, were more numerous, the living or the dead, said that the living were, since the dead no longer existed. The second, being asked whether the earth or the sea produced larger animals, said the earth did, since the sea was but a part of the earth. The third, being asked what animal was the most cunning, said: "That which up to this time man has not discovered." The fourth, when asked why he had induced Sabbas to revolt, replied: "Because I wished him either to die nobly or live." The fifth, being asked which, in his opinion, was older, day or night, replied: "Day, by one day"; and he added, upon the king expressing dissatisfaction, that unusual questions must have unusual answers. Passing on, then, to the sixth, Alexander asked how a man could be most loved; "If," said the philosopher, "he is most powerful, and yet does not inspire fear." Of the three remaining, he who was asked how one might become a god instead of man, replied: "By doing something which a man cannot do"; the one who was asked which was the stronger, life or death, answered: "Life, since it supports so many ills." And the last, asked how long it were well for a man to live, answered: "Until he does not regard death as better than life." So, then, turning to the judge, Alexander bade him give his opinion. The judge declared that they had answered one worse than another. "Well, then," said Alexander, "thou shalt die first for giving such a verdict." "That cannot be, O King," said the judge, "unless thou falsely saidst that thou wouldst put to death first him who answered worst." These philosophers, then, he dismissed with gifts.”

The dialogue between Alexander and the Indian philosophers is called Cynic in Greek and Roman tradition because the Cynic philosopher Onesicritus recorded it. Onesicritus believed that the Indian philosophers epitomized Cynic values because they practiced extreme asceticism—they lived naked and claimed to own nothing except the ground on which they stood. Diogenes Laërtius, the third century Greek philosopher, notes in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers that the great skeptic philosopher Pyrrho of Ellis was inspired by Indian thought while he was in India with Alexander, and this caused him to imitate their lifestyle and method of philosophizing after he made his way back to Ellis.

Here’s a brief account of Alexander’s foray into India: He invaded India in 326 BCE and defeated King Porus in the Battle of the Hydaspes on the banks of the Jhelum River. But to go deeper into India, he would have had to declare war on the Nanda empire—according to Plutarch, the encounter with Porus who had “only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse” had blunted the spirits of Alexander’s troops and they mutinied at the prospect of encounter with the Nanda empire which reportedly had “eighty-thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants.” Alexander was ultimately convinced by his advisors that he should withdraw from India since his troops were not willing to fight a major battle.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Riddle of the Rig Veda and the Sphinx

On his journey between Thebes and Delphi, Oedipus encounters the Sphinx—in order to pass, he must answer the Sphinx’s riddle: "What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?". Oedipus’s answer is: "Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a walking stick". 

In the Rig Veda, a riddle similar to the one posed by the Sphinx can be found in verse 10.117.8:  “He with one foot hath far outrun the biped, and the two-footed catches the three-footed. Four-footed creatures come when bipeds call them, and stand and look where five are met together.”

This verse preaches that quantity is not the measure of power and effectiveness, because the more feet an entity has, the less autonomous and effective it is. The one-footed in the verse is the sun; the two-footed is a man; the three-footed is an old man who walks with the help of a stick; the four-footed is a dog; and the five-footed are the herds.

Vajasaneyi Samhita: Metaphysical and Theological Riddles

The Vajasaneyi Samhita of the Shukla Yajurveda contains several question-and-answer sessions among the priests in which metaphysical and theological riddles are indicated. Here’s one session in which the priest who is the hotr (the one who recites the invocations and litanies during the yajna) asks:

Who wonders lonely on his way?
Who is constantly born anew?
What is the remedy for cold?
What is the great corn vessel called?

The priest who is the adhvaryu (the one who manages the physical details of the yajna) replies:

The sun wanders lonely on its way,
The moon is constantly born anew,
Fire is the remedy for cold,
The earth is the great grain-vessel. 

The Vedic sage Yajnavalkya (who is dated between the eighth and the seventh centuries BC) is the founder of the Vajasaneyi branch. The word “Vajasaneyi” is a patronymic of Yajnavalkya.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Civilization to Barbarism

“I want to know what were the steps by which men passed from barbarism to civilization.” ~ Voltaire 
I believe that it would also be interesting to know what were the steps by which men pass from civilization to barbarism.

The Vedic Prayers for Power

Health, happiness, prosperity, and strength are the chief concerns of the Vedic sages. The four Vedas contain several hymns which depict the gods and humans regaining their powers through the chanting of hymns. The Yajur Veda begins with a hymn which is a prayer for health, happiness, prosperity, and strength. Here’s A. B. Keith’s translation of verse 1.1.1 of the Yajur Veda:

For food thee, for strength thee!
Ye are winds, ye are approachers.
Let the god Savitr impel you to the most excellent offering.
O invincible ones, swell with the share for the gods,
Full of strength, of milk, rich in offspring, free from sickness, from disease.
Let no thief, no evil worker, have control over you.
Let Rudra's dart avoid you.
Abide ye, numerous, with this lord of cattle.
Do thou protect the cattle of the sacrificer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Anti-Communism of Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison, the author of Invisible Man: A Novel, became a communist in the 1930s after coming under the influence of communist intellectuals in New York. But in less than a decade, he realized that communism is as dangerous as Nazism. The extent of Ellison’s disenchantment from communism comes out in a letter which he wrote to Roger Wright on August 18, 1945. While talking about the American communists, Ellison writes in the letter: “If they want to play ball with the bourgeoisie they needn’t think they can get away with it. If they want to be lice, then by God let them be squashed like lice. Maybe we can’t smash the atom, but we can, with a few well chosen, well written words, smash all that crummy filth to hell.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Chandogya Upaniṣad On Mind and Will

The Chandogya Upaniṣad has an account of a conversation between Narada and Sanatkumara—they discuss several philosophical and religious problems, including the problem of difference between mind and will. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Narada: “Blessed one, is there anything greater than mind.”

Sanatkumara: “There is something greater than mind.”

Narada: “Tell me about it, blessed one.”

Sanatkumara: “Will (samkalpa) is greater than mind. When one wills (samkalpayate), one thinks; then one utters speech-one utters it as names. In name the mantras become one, and in the mantras actions become one.

“These have will as their sole end, will as their self, and are established on will. Sky and earth have been formed (sam-klp-); air and space have been formed; the waters and heat have been formed, and rain is formed according to their will (samklpti). Food is formed according to the will of rain. The breaths are formed according to the will of food. The mantras are formed according to the will of the breaths. Actions are formed according to the will of the mantras. The world is formed according to the will of the actions. Everything is formed according to the will of the world. This is will. Worship will.”

(Translation by Valerie Roebuck)

Monday, November 9, 2020

Four Qualities of the Seekers of Brahman

In his commentary on the Brahma Sutra, Shankara, the seventh century AD philosopher of Advaita, says that the man who wants to gain knowledge of the Brahman, the ultimate mover and principle of the universe, must have four spiritual qualifications: first, he should possess the ability to discriminate between the real and the unreal; second, he should be indifferent to all pleasures and he should have the fortitude to perform actions without caring for the fruits; third, he should possess six virtues, which are shama (ability to control the mind), dama (ability to control the senses), uparati (ability to strictly observe one’s own dharma with dispassion), titiksha (ability to live with pleasure or pain, and hot or cold), shraddha (faith in guru and in the Upanishads), and samadhana (deep concentration); fourth, he should be filled with the desire for liberation. Shankara notes that the knowledge of the Vedic rituals and the ability to perform them is not necessary for those who seek knowledge of the Brahman.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Great American Robbery

The Roman Civilization, when it fell in 476 CE, was not defeated in a military sense; it was stolen by a cabal of corrupt Roman politicians, intellectuals, and King Odoacer and his barbarian tribes. Now history is repeating itself—the USA has not been militarily defeated by any foreign power, but it’s being stolen by its leftist politicians who have joined hands with tech, media, and finance industry oligarchs and some foreign powers. This country will find it difficult to recover from the messy election that they are having. The great American robbery is on.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

On Hegel’s Philosophy of History

In his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel says that world history is the history of reason. To an unphilosophical eye, history might create the impression of chaotic situations, irrational surges of emotion, mindless violence, and chance events, but a philosopher is capable of discerning the rational design towards which the disjointed and senseless events of the past are driving humanity. The purpose of history is not to satisfy desires and spread happiness. Hegel writes: “The History of the World is not the theatre of happiness. Periods of happiness are blank pages in it, for they are periods of harmony—periods when the antithesis is in abeyance.” The suffering, the chaos, the trauma, and the oppression that human beings undergo is for the purpose of fulfilling the design of the universal spirit. “That is to say, man is an object of existence in himself only in virtue of the Divine that is in him, — that which was designated at the outset as Reason; which, in view of its activity and power of self-determination, was called Freedom.” Human beings cannot defy the march of world history in which reason is immanent because the claim of the universal spirit rises above all the particular claims.

The Upaniṣads On Human Senses

The human senses are described in several verses in the Upaniṣads; most of these verses say that there are eleven senses, known as indriya, but some verses take the number of senses up to fourteen. The five principle senses of perception are known as buddhindriyani or jnanendriyani, because they are used to control the buddhi or higher intelligence: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. Then there are the five senses of karma or action, known as karmendriyani: larynx, hand, foot, and organs of elimination and generation. The eleventh sense is the manas or mind, which serves as the bridge between the other senses and the atman or soul. The three more senses that are mentioned in some of the verses are the inner senses, which are known as the antarindriyanimanasbuddhiahamkara (ego), and chitta (consciousness). In each individual, the operation of the eleven to fourteen senses (indriya) is managed by a particular deity.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Personal Freedom and God

The stoics of Ancient Rome believed that they were personally free even though their every action conformed to god’s will. In his Moral Letters to Lucilius, the Roman politician and stoic philosopher, Seneca writes, “I do not obey God, but I assent to what he has decided.” Since god is rational, the stoics believed, the actions of those who follow god are in accordance to reason.

A Perfect Man is an Impossibility

Ayn Rand preached that contradictions do not exist, but she based her philosophy on the notion of the prefect man being the fountainhead of all progress. A perfect man is a contradiction in terms—as Eliezer Berkovits notes in his essay, “God in History”: “Why ask for continuous miracles to rectify what goes wrong in the world? Would it not be simpler to ask for the creation of a perfect man, who would be so endowed by nature as to be incapable of committing any evil? The answer, of course, is even simpler than the question is naive. A perfect man is, in this sense, a contradiction in terms; it is an impossibility. A man incapable of doing wrong would not be human. The imperfection of human nature is inseparable from its most significant asset: Its potential for goodness, its capacity for responsible decision and action.” Berkovits is making a good point. Unless a man has the capacity to be wrong, he cannot have the potential to be right; a man who is so prefect that he never makes any mistakes, cannot do anything right, which means that he won’t be perfect—thus the concept of perfect man is a contradiction.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Words of Krishna and Yama

What Krishna says to Arjuna in verse 2.19 of the Bhagavad Gita, when both of them are at the battlefield of Kurukshetra, is very close to what Yama, the God of Death, says in verse 2.19 of the Katha Upaniṣad

Here’s verse 2.19 of the Bhagavad Gita:

य एनं वेत्ति हन्तारं यश्चैनं मन्यते हतम् |
उभौ तौ न विजानीतो नायं हन्ति न हन्यते ||

(Neither of them is in knowledge—the one who thinks the soul can slay and the one who thinks the soul can be slain. For truly, the soul neither kills nor can it be killed.)

Here’s Valerie Roebuck’s translation of verse 2.19 from the Katha Upaniṣad:

‘If the slayer thinks it slays;
If the one who is slain thinks it is slain:
Neither of them understands.
It does not slay, nor is it slain.

Taking inspiration from these verses in the Bhagavad Gita and Katha Upaniṣad, Ralph Waldo Emerson has written a poem called "Brahma":

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

History is Collectivist

History is not made by individuals. It is made by the collectives which are brought together by the forces of religion, mythology, nationalism, economic incentives and upheavals, political agenda, ideology, technological and militaristic expansions. If any issue does not gather the support of a collective, it will not make history and will have no impact on mankind’s future.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Reason Does Not Inspire Morality

Pure reason is not practical—this means that a system of morality based on rational principles will not find adherents. Reason might lead to material progress, but it will never lead to moral progress; a man of reason is often as nihilistic as a man lacking in reason. To inspire people to be moral, incentives other than reason are required but the nature of these incentives is not clear—is it mythology, religion, good genes, good upbringing, awareness of an illustrious intellectual and political tradition, political liberty, or is it something else? In his book God, Man and History, Eliezer Berkovits writes, “The evil done by the power that knowledge provides, has always eclipsed the good done by the same power. Notwithstanding enlightenment, man seems to remain an essentially unethical being.”

The Upaniṣads on Kantian Moral Autonomy

Kant believed that the central moral value for an individual is autonomy—an individual is autonomous if he can give moral law to himself and does not have to make his choices on the basis of the injunctions of others. Something similar to the Kantian idea of autonomy is expressed in several verses in the Upaniṣads. Verse 7.25.2 in the Chandogya Upaniṣad says: 

“'Hence the symbolic statement on "self": "The self is below, the self is above, the self is in the west, the self is in the east, the self is in the south, the self is in the north. The self is all this." Seeing this, thinking this, knowing this-taking pleasure in the self, playing in the self, making love with the self, delighting in the self-one becomes one's own ruler, and wins freedom to move in all worlds. But those who know it in other ways are ruled by others, live in perishable worlds, and win no freedom to move in all worlds.”

Verse 1.6.2 in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad says: 

“as SUVAH in the sun, as MAHAH in brahman. He wins independence, he wins the lord of the mind: he is lord of speech, lord of the eye, lord of the ear, lord of knowledge. From that comes this: brahman, with space as its body, truth as its self, breath as its dwelling, mind as its joy, pervaded by peace, immortal. Worship it as such, Pracinayogya.”

Verse 3.10.5 in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad notes that when a man with rational mind has unhindered liberty, he can attain perfect bliss:

“And the one who leaves this world knowing this goes up to the self made of food, goes up to the self made of breath, goes up to the self made of mind, goes up to the self made of knowledge, goes up to the self made of joy. He moves about the worlds, with food at his desire, with forms at his desire. He continually sings this saman: ‘Oh, bliss ... ! Oh, bliss . . . ! Oh, bliss . . . ! I am food, I am food, I am food. I am the eater of food. I am the eater of food. I am the eater of food. I am the maker of verse. I am the maker of verse. I am the maker of verse. I am the first-born of law . . ., before the gods, in the navel . . . of immortality. You protect . . . the one who gives to me. I eat . . . food and the one who eats food. I have overcome the whole universe. I am light like the sun.’"

Verse 8.1.6 in the Chandogya Upaniṣad notes that without knowledge of the self, freedom and bliss cannot be achieved:

“Just as here worlds won through action perish, there worlds won through merit perish. While those here who pass on without having known the self and the true desires do not gain freedom to move in all worlds, those here who pass on having known the self and the true desires do gain freedom to move in all worlds.”

(Translations from The Upaniṣads by Valerie Roebuck; Penguin Books)