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Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Weak Spots: Conservatives and Liberals

The weak spot of the conservatives is their naivety which leads them to believe in cliches like truth always wins in the end. The weak spot of the liberals is their ridiculousness which leads them to believe that truth is what those with political power want it to be.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Civilizations: The Mirage of Immortality

In his twelve-volume A Study of History, Arnold J. Toynbee traces the rise and fall of twenty-eight civilizations. He notes that when a civilization reaches its climax, its people get blinded by “a mirage of immortality,” which makes them convinced that they are the world’s chosen people, that theirs is the final form of life, that they represent the end of history, that theirs is the promised land. Ironically, the civilizations whose people are struck with such hubris that they start believing that their way of life is immortal are the ones which are about to decline and fall. In the editor’s note to A Study of History, it is given that Toynbee always believed that civilizations mostly die by suicide and rarely by murder or natural causes.

On The Libertarian Utopia

There is no culture-free definition of liberty and man’s rights; a few cultures might need a degree of freedom to remain viable, but most cultures are fundamentally statist and immoral, and they see the slogans of liberty and man’s rights as a conspiracy against their way of life. Defining liberty and man’s rights, without taking into account the aspects of culture, is tantamount to dealing with a counterfeit of these concepts, and that is the problem that the libertarians face—they talk about liberty and man’s rights but they do not appreciate the culture and history of the places where these concepts have taken root in the last two hundred fifty years. They envisage the existence of liberty and man’s rights in a society that is free of all cultural restrictions, but a society without culture is not possible. The libertarian conception of a free society is a counterfeit of reality; their vision is a utopia, which can never be realized.

Friday, January 29, 2021

On Judging the Great Figures of History

A man can be morally judged only in context of his achievements. This is especially true of the illustrious names of history. When you judge the historical figures, you have to first understand what they have achieved under what odds—you could also try to imagine what would be the state of the world if those figures of history had not performed the deeds for which they became famous or infamous. No man can achieve great things without making compromises and, in some cases, performing deeds which might seem evil from the vantage point of the smug folks of the later generations. A man who has done no evil is probably a village idiot who has not achieved anything significant in his lifetime. If all the figures of history were village idiots, free of all blame, then we would all be living in a village mired in poverty and ignorance. Mankind owes a great debt to the people who, while being visionary, intelligent, and moral, did not fail to act in a cruel, ruthless, and shrewd manner when the occasion demanded it—such people are the real drivers of history and the fountainhead of all progress.

Magna Carta Versus Magna Mac

When non-western nations allow western multinational companies to do business inside their borders, they are not accepting western culture—they are accepting only western money, trading strategies, and technology. Samuel Huntington rightly notes in his book The Clash of Civilizations: “The argument now that the spread of pop culture and consumer goods around the world represents the triumph of Western civilization trivializes Western culture. The essence of Western civilization is the Magna Carta, not the Magna Mac. The fact that non-Westerners may bite into the latter has no implications for their accepting the former.” China is America’s biggest business partner, but in the cultural and political sense, the two countries can never be alike.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Chinese Civilization Versus American Nation

China is a civilization which pretends to be a nation. Despite Mao’s dalliance with the Western ideology of communism between 1950 and 1976, China never ceased being a fundamentally Confucian world. America is a nation which pretends to be a civilization. America cannot be a civilization because the roots of its culture lies outside its borders, in Europe, and all the European nations are determined to carve out a non-American identity. History tells us that in the conflict between a nation and a civilization, the civilization has a better chance of winning. But America is not like most other nations in history—it is economically and militarily too powerful and so it is hard to predict which side will be in a position to dominate the world in the next two decades. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Monistic Implications of Schrödinger’s Quantum Theory

One of the conclusions of Schrödinger’s quantum theory is that the position of the electrons which compose the material things in the universe cannot be predicted because they pervade the entire universe. The monistic philosophers have tried to use the conclusions of the quantum theory to develop arguments for supporting the monistic position that everything is immanent in everything else. Thus, you are not making a mistake when you assume that something is another thing. If in the darkness, you mistake a rope for a snake, you are not making a mistake because the electrons that comprise the snake are immanent in the rope, just as the rope’s electrons are there in the snake. No unreal thing is perceived. Some schools of Vedanta philosophy (for instance, the Ramanujacharya’s tradition) have preached similar ideas.

The Myth of the Superiority of Reason

There are no grounds to believe that the people who profess to believe in the supremacy of reason will be more efficient and benign in the exercise of power than those who believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat. Those who possess political power also possess the tools for promoting themselves as the men of reason who are expert in everything and, therefore, deserve to be obeyed by all. Thus, a dictatorship of the proletariat can easily be promoted as a rule of the infallible men of reason, and that is how it happened in the Soviet Union. By virtue of being the fountainhead of the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin had won the reputation in communist circles of possessing an exceptional brain—the communists saw him as the ultimate man of reason. When he died, the Soviets took out his brain and sliced it into 31000 wafer-thin slithers which were mounted on glass and stored in a secure laboratory (Room 19) of the Moscow Brain Institute—Lenin’s brain is the most closely studied brain in history. I believe that the notion of supremacy of reason is simply a way of conning the people into surrendering their life and liberty to any individual or group that claims to be the voice of reason.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Liberals and the Idea of Rationality

The idea of rationality is the primary means by which liberalism establishes its superiority. The liberals are the owners of the mouthpieces of intellectual and political discourse. Thus have the power to valorize their agenda as rational and to brand the agenda of their rivals as irrational. The language of rationality imparts a superior status to liberalism and ensures its success in the intellectual and political battles. The liberals cannot be defeated as long as they possess the power of determining what is rational and what isn’t.

Huntington on Multiculturalism

In The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington argues that “multiculturalism is in its essence anti-European civilization. It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” He notes that by denying national culture, the ideology of multiculturalism pushes society towards identify politics; people get divided into groups which compete with each other for political and economic power. But when people are fighting with each other, they are less likely to pose a threat to the multiculturalists who hold positions of power. Thus multiculturalism leads to rise in the power of the government, and a corresponding decline in the civil liberties that people have traditionally enjoyed.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Eternal and the Temporal

Man’s body is temporal but his soul is eternal, and his mind is the bridge between the temporal body and the eternal soul. The coexistence of the temporal and the eternal is the underlying reality of the universe. The manifest universe is temporal, while the unmanifest prime author of the universe is eternal. Man can gain empirical knowledge by studying the temporal, but to meet his spiritual needs, he must speculate about the eternal through philosophy and religion.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Creation of the Universe

One of the teachings of the Vedas is that the Brahman, who is the ultimate principle and mover of the universe, does not dwell in the universe; rather, the universe dwells in him. Thus the Brahman does not create the universe, he becomes it—creation is not an act; it is an expression of the potentiality of the divine. The ancient Jewish texts preach a similar dictum—they say that God is the abode of the universe, but the universe is not the abode of God.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Autonomous Kantian

The Kantian man does not consent. He is governed by the categorical imperative (moral law) that he gives to himself. To be rational, Kant says, is to be autonomous (free), and to be autonomous is to possess the ability to give yourself the categorical imperative. In the Kantian moral system rationality comes first—rationality leads to the state of being autonomous or having a free mind. This, in turn, enables a man to accept and strictly observe the categorical imperative. Thus, in Kant’s moral theory, the rational man is independent and moral. Irrationality implies an unfree mind and the potential for immorality.

Thoughts on Freedom and Slavery

Man creates a nation and depending on the political character of the nation, man is either free or a slave. The concepts of “freedom” and “slavery” come into existence after people come together to create a nation. Just as the period of “night” grants relevance to the period of “day,” the existence of a nation (an entity that has the power to enslave) makes the concept of freedom relevant to us. We would not have known what freedom is, if we didn’t have the experience of the nations where people exist as slaves. The idea of slavery is a precursor to the idea of freedom—the desire for freedom is born in the mind of men who have endured the degrading experience of slavery. People living in the free nations are not concerned about freedom; they take their liberties for granted, as something that has always existed and always will.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Tolstoy on the French Revolution

All human actions, even the quest for reason, liberty, and atheism, have unintended consequences. The idealistic French philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment, who hectored their countrymen to fight for a utopia of reason, liberty, and atheism, were the intellectual architects of the bloody French Revolution. Therefore, I say, one must beware of the philosophers who talk about reason, liberty, and atheism—they might be the breeders of violence and chaos. Here’s Tolstoy’s description of the French Revolution and its aftermath (in the epilogue of his novel War and Peace): “At the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time there was in France a man of genius Napoleon. He conquered everybody everywhere that is, he killed many people because he was a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great many.”

The Beauty of Silence

To gain higher knowledge and wisdom, we need to turn away from the world which is full of noise. The ancient Hindu texts insist that “mauna,” which means silence or abstinence from speech, is necessary for study, contemplation, and meditation. In Western philosophy, Kierkegaard has written some really good lines on the beauty of silence. Here’s a passage from his book For Self-Examination/Judge for Yourselves: “The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: ‘Create silence’. Bring men to silence. The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were blazoned forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noises, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore, create silence.”

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Kant on the Acceptability of Half-Truths

Kant has preached in his moral theory that lying is forbidden and that always speaking the truth is a categorical imperative (moral law). In his essay, “Truthfulness and Lies: What Can We Learn from Kant?” Alasdair MacIntyre examines Kant’s notion of radical truthfulness and notes that speaking half-truths in extremely difficult circumstances is allowed under the Kantian moral system. Kant himself used a half-truth to outmaneuver King Friedrich Wilhelm II and the royal censors who were accusing him of disparaging religion in his writings. The censors demanded that Kant should make the pledge that henceforth he would refrain from writing on religion. To assuage the King, Kant made this statement: “As your Majesty’s faithful subject, I shall in the future completely desist from all public lectures or papers concerning religion.” In his essay, MacIntyre quotes Kant as saying that when he made the statement to the King, he knew that the King was old and frail, and not likely to live for too long. When the King died, Kant regarded himself as free of the pledge, since his pledge was made “as your Majesty’s faithful subject” and was valid so long as the Majesty was alive. Thus, Kant could resume writing on religious issues.

The Mahabharata on the Power of Time

“You should not sorrow for that which was bound to happen. Those who are wise do not feel sorry over fate. Even with the greatest wisdom, that which is ordained will happen. No one can transgress the path that has been laid down. Time brings existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain. Time creates all elements and time destroys all beings. Time burns all subjects and it is time that extinguishes the fire. Time alone is awake when everything is asleep. Time cannot be conquered. Time walks in all elements, pervasive and impartial. Knowing that everything, past, present and future, is created by time, it is not appropriate that you should be consumed by grief,” says Sanjaya to console the blind King Dhritarashtra who is burning with grief over the death of his sons in the great battle between Kauravas and Pandavas that took place at Kurukshetra (The Mahabharata; Section: “Anukramanika Parva”; Bibek Debroy’s translation)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

MacIntyre: Human Beings as Storytelling Beings

Human beings are storytelling beings—their lives are a narrative quest. In his book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre writes: “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” A teleological character can be discerned in every lived narrative, but this does not imply that the life’s purpose is fixed by an external authority; MacIntyre notes that teleology and unpredictability can coexist. He writes: “Like characters in a fictional narrative we do not know what will happen next, but nonetheless our lives have a certain form which projects itself toward our future.” Every life is a narrative quest which aims to reach a certain end, and when a man faces a crossroad, then he moves in the direction in which he thinks he will make a sense out of his life’s narrative. When we make moral choices, we are not exerting our will; we are interpreting the narratives of our life. MacIntyre points out that as an individual, a man cannot identify the good and exercise the virtues—men look at their life as a whole, and they examine the narratives in which they feature. He offers the example of a German who believes that since he was born after 1945, the Nazi crimes are not his moral responsibility. This stance of the German, MacIntyre says, represents a moral shallowness, since it is based on the presumption that the self can be detached from its social and historical narratives. MacIntyre’s narrative account is antithetical to the individualist doctrine. The individualists think that they are what they choose to be, whereas MacIntyre posits that moral reflection requires that I must examine my social and historical narratives.

Civilization: The Bridge Too Far

A civilization is not an end in itself; it is a means for the creation of another civilization. When a civilization reaches its highest or lowest point, it is driven by the forces of nature to cross the bridge built over an infinite abyss of oblivion. If the bridge breaks, the civilization descends into the abyss and disappears forever, but if the bridge holds, and the civilization makes it to the other side of the infinite abyss of oblivion, then it transforms into a new civilization, one that is a higher or lower version of the original civilization.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Aristotle on Politics and Good Life

The modernist notion that the politicians should keep aloof from the issues of morality and good life is antithetical to the ancient notion of politics—Aristotle says that the aim of politics is to create opportunities for good life (a life of virtue) in the city-state. In Book 3 of Politics, he writes: “Any polis which is truly so called, and is not merely one in name, must devote itself to the end of encouraging goodness.” I believe, Aristotle is right—a good life is possible only in a nation which is home to people of good character; so the focus of state has to be on building character. “Before we can [investigate] the nature of an ideal constitution,” Aristotle writes in Book I of Politics, “it is necessary for us first to determine the nature of the most desirable way of life. As long as that is obscure, the nature of the ideal constitution must also remain obscure.” Thus, for Aristotle, the purpose of politics is cultivation of virtue (good character), and the purpose of the constitution is to sustain a desirable way of life. The conception of good life is aligned to the conception of justice.

A Supernova?

When a star goes supernova, it obliterates the existing world and makes space for a new world to eventually emerge. The star of the USA, it seems to me, is about to go supernova. I hope I am wrong.

The Two Categories of People

The liberal intellectuals and politicians divide the people of their country into two categories: the useful idiots and the natural enemies. If you are not the natural enemy of the liberals, then you are their useful idiot.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Monsters, Barbarians, and Civilization

“There is much filth in the world; that much is true. But that does not make the world itself a filthy monster.” ~ writes Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The world is what it is, an amoral platform which is itself untouched by the activities of men. A few people in the world are the monsters, most are not. The good people have the choice—to out-monster the monsters or be devoured. History regards the people who aspire to out-monster the monsters as the barbarians, but it is always the barbarians who stand at the rise of a civilization, and it is always the statesmen, philosophers, and utopians who preside over the decline of a civilization.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Philosophy and the Vedic Tradition

The tradition of the Vedas is traced to Brahma, the original creator and mover of the universe. That is why the Vedas are called apauruseya, which means impersonal or authorless; most Hindu schools of philosophy accept the Vedas as svatah pramana or self-evident means of knowledge. Since Brahma created the Vedas at the same time when he created the rest of the universe, this text is timeless and has been available in every era in the history of the universe. In my opinion, from this traditional account of the origin of the Vedas, it can be inferred that all philosophical knowledge is as old as humanity itself. There are no original thinkers in philosophy. All good philosophers are inspired by the common knowledge which has been accumulating since the time when the first humans appeared on earth. Individual philosophers will present their philosophical thought in their own words, they will develop their own original arguments, but the thought and the wisdom is much older, it is common knowledge.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

On Empathy for One’s Culture and Tradition

Empathy for one’s culture and tradition is the key to gaining freedom from the past and charting a new future. Those who despise their culture and tradition are overwhelmed by the baggage of history. Their mental resources are squandered in hatefully obsessing about the deeds of their ancestors and historical events, and they become filled with loathing for themselves, their countrymen, and their nation’s culture. All kinds of negative thoughts dull their mind and it becomes impossible for them to move in the direction of a future that is free of the past; thus they remain a prisoner of the past, the one that they despise.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Creation of Dharma (Justice)

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, in verse 1.4.14, describes the creation of dharma, which is righteousness and justice. Here’s a translation of the verse:

“Yet, he [the Brahman, the prime author of the universe] was not flourishing. So he created on himself another excellent form, which is the form of dharma. This dharma is the power and duty of the kshatriya class (ruling class) and hence there is nothing better than dharma. Through dharma, a weak man might overcome a strong man, as one does through a king. That which is dharma is the truth. Thus it is said by those who speak the truth: “He speaks dharma” and “He speaks truth”—both statements have the same meaning.”

This verse denotes the supremacy of rule of law. All kings (the kshatriyas who enjoy political power) must be subordinate to dharma. The Brahman was concerned that the kshatriya class, being fierce, might become unruly and start oppressing the masses. That is why he created the excellent form of dharma which would motivate the kshatriyas to serve as the righteous and truthful defenders of rule of law. Dharma enjoins the powerful to use their power for the good of everyone by implementing the divine law. 

Satya (truth) and dharma (righteousness and justice) are organically related. When there is dharma, there is truth; when dharma fails, there is a regime of adharma (injustice) and asatya (lies).

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Left in America, Europe, and Asia

The American left is a unique phenomenon in the sense that it is an elitist kind of left; it is inspired by the ideas of the Frankfurt school and other neo-liberal thinkers, and is led by millionaires and billionaires. The elitist left is not ideological, it is moved by nihilistic and feudal tendencies; for them culture is a myth, and the masses are serfs. They preach socialism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism, but their privileged lifestyle is funded by the revenues from capitalist oligarchies—they exercise monopolistic control over the digital industry, the arts and entertainment industry, the mainstream media, and academia. The leftist movements which acquired power in Eastern Europe and large parts of Asia in the twentieth century were the Bolshevik left. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Bolshevik left mutated into the fascistic left. In Western Europe and India, the Fabian left dominated politics until the 1980s; after the 1980s, the Fabian left has been overtaken by the environmentalist and the American-style elitist left.

Kant’s Moral Theory: Deontology and Autonomy

Immanuel Kant grounds his moral theory in deontology, but he is not preaching subservience to the commandments. He talks about autonomy, but he is not preaching the anarchist type of total freedom. In Kant’s moral philosophy, deontology and autonomy go together. He holds that it is your duty to obey the moral law (categorical imperative) only if you have the autonomy to be the author of that categorical imperative. Once you have authored the categorical imperative (accepted it) as the right way, it becomes your duty to obey. The man who adheres to a categorical imperative, does it because it is a categorical imperative of his own choice. In the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant writes: “The dignity of man consists precisely in his capacity to make universal law, although only on condition of being himself also subject to the law he makes.” Kant holds that when we choose our own categorical imperative, we make the choice not as individuals but as rational beings, or the men who participate in, what Kant calls, “Pure practical reason”—the will to act with autonomy (independently) is the same as the will to act in accordance to the categorical imperative. This ensures that all rational people opt for the same categorical imperative and the society enjoys the benefit of a common code of morality.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Man and The Becoming Universe

Nothing is eternal, everything is changing, becoming a new thing—the universe itself is a becoming. Since man lives in a becoming universe, he has to accept change as the fundamental principle of existence. His body, his mind, his culture, his nation, his ideological preferences, his notions of the past and aspirations from the future are constantly changing along with the elements of the material world around him. Everyday he is a new person; everyday he discovers a new material and mental state. The presocratic thinker Heraclitus rightly said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

The Pendulum of Politics

History tells us that politics is like a pendulum; it always seeks to find a balance by engineering an equal and opposite reaction to every political action. Those who take extreme political action today for usurping political power should do so with the knowledge that by the implacable law of nature an equally extreme reaction is bound to follow. Those who strike at Caesar are shown no mercy by Augustus when he arrives.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Isha Upanishad and the Spirit of Vairagya

The Isha Upanishad, also known as the Isavasya Upanishad, is the fortieth chapter (last chapter) in the Vajasaneya Samhita of the White Yajurveda. It contains eighteen mantras which describe the wisdom and state of bliss that can be attained through vairagya which is the method of living a fruitful life while being detached from material things. By liberating man from material bonds, vairagya brings freedom from fears, suspicions, jealousies, angers, frustrations, and insecurities—a man with spirit of vairagya pays heed to the teachings of the scriptures and venerates the divine. Our lust for material things, blinds our senses and deludes our mind, making the scriptures unintelligible to us and the divine invisible to us, but this problem of blindness and delusion can be conquered by inculcating a spirit of vairagya . 

The Isha Upanishad rejects both schools of thought—one which holds that man can achieve liberation by following the path of worldly duties and knowledge, and the other which holds that man can achieve liberation by following the path of renunciation and bhakti (devotion). It preaches that the two paths are complementary and not contradictory, and that liberation is attained by a method that is a combination of the two paths. Since man and the material world are part of the same divine, the pursuit of knowledge and the fulfillment of worldly duties is not hindered by renunciation and devotion. Man can easily traverse the two paths, if he accepts that worldly glory and success come from the divine and makes efforts to attain the spirit of vairagya

The Upanishad gets its name from the first word of its opening mantra:  

ॐ ईशा वास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् ।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ।।

(Translation: All this, all that moves in this moving world, is pervaded by God. Therefore find your bliss in what has been renounced, do not covet what belongs to others.)

The eighteen mantras in the Upanishad can be placed in five broad categories: the first category consists of the mantras one to three; the second consists of mantras four to eight; the third consists of mantras nine to fourteen; the fourth consists of mantras fifteen to seventeen; and the fifth category consists of the final eighteenth mantra.

The purport of the first mantra is that enjoyment is possible to a man who detaches himself from material things while continuing to perform his wordy duties. Once we realize that everything in the world, including our own self, is pervaded by the divine, the feeling of being detached is easier to develop. The second mantra states that the path of knowledge is for the seers, and for others, there is the path of action—the essence of this mantra is that liberation is attained when one performs one’s worldly duties with the spirit of vairagya, or with the notion that every action is in the service of the divine. The third mantra states that those who fail to follow this path, the path of vairagya, become the slayers of their own self and are mired in pain and darkness. 

The mantras four to eight shed light on the transcendental and immanent nature of the divine. The divine is eternal and ephemeral; it is inherently immutable, while overtly being in a state of constant change. The mind is the fastest thing in the universe, but the self, which is the divine in us, is faster since there is no place where the divine is not present. The fifth mantra offers a series of contradictions: “It moves, it moves not; It is far; near it is; It is within all this, outside it is.” The contradictions are indicative of the difficulties that the human mind faces while trying to describe the ultimate reality, since the ultimate reality transcends all categories of thought. 

The mantras nine to fourteen deal with the problem of ignorance—they preach that the cure for the problem of ignorance is wisely performed actions. Work (actions) without wisdom push the spirit into darkness, and the pursuit of wisdom and neglect of work pushes the spirit into even greater darkness. The benefits are accrued to those who maintain a balance between work and wisdom. The mantras fifteen to seventeen exhort man to discover and glorify the divine that exists inside him. The mantra eighteen is a prayer to the divine for blessing and assistance for self-development: “O Agni, the god who knows all; lead us on the auspicious road to prosperity. O Lord, who knows our every deed, take away our deceits and sins. We offer you our prayers.” 

The Ihsa Upanishad addresses the needs of those who desire liberation but are not in a position to renounce the world. It does not exhort us to give up and become indifferent to the world. It teaches that a life of bliss is possible to those who fulfill their worldly duties while being in a spirit of vairagya. The ancient sages, who compiled this Upanishad, realized that man’s life can never be free from worldly duties. Even the man who becomes a sanyasi (religious mendicant) continues to owe certain duties to the world, though in his case, the duties are ritualistic and religious. The man, who is not a sanyasi, must continue to perform his worldly duties while following the path of dharma (morality)—this can be achieved by living with a spirit of vairagya.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Orwell's Proles and Free Society

The speed at which the social media space is being purged is stunning. Some of the biggest social media accounts (those with hundreds of thousands of followers) are no longer visible. If they are purging on such massive scale now, then what will they do after January 20? In his novel 1984, George Orwell declares, “If there was hope, it must lie in the proles.” Orwell knew that the intellectuals, politicians, celebrities, journalists, and big businessmen are unlikely to move a finger for the cause of liberty and free speech—since they benefit from their closeness to the establishment and seldom suffer any oppression, they have little incentive to fight. Liberty and free speech are the rich man’s talking points, his ways of virtue signaling, and the poor man’s (prole’s) fight.

Man, God, and the Universe

Man, who is the intelligent life of the universe, is created to serve as the mediator between god and nature. His true purpose is to use his wisdom and enterprise to complete the task of god’s creation—thus, man is a partner of god; he is the particularization of god’s creative energy.

Friday, January 8, 2021

To Create a Monumental Disaster, You Need People of High IQ

In a 2009 article, Thomas Sowell writes: “There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.” Sowell has a good point. High IQ does not mean genius; it does not mean wisdom; it does not mean great knowledge; it does not mean better work ethic; it does not mean higher moral standards; it does not mean better political sensibility. IQ is the measure of a man’s reasoning capacity. People of high IQ are quicker in answering questions and making predictions—this makes them eligible for professions in mainstream media, big legal firms, PR Agencies, multinational corporations, academic institutions, and government bureaucracies. But they tend to be narcissistic; they are convinced of their own brilliance and they want to think for everyone. Whenever they are put in a position of power, they develop a totalitarian mindset; they become reckless and insist on following their own mind which they are convinced is brilliant. The problems of the world, however, are far too complicated to be solved by a single mind or even a few minds—howsoever brilliant these minds might be. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini were people of high IQ—they were convinced of their own brilliance; they were convinced that their policies would lead to a perfect world order.

The Whataboutism of the Libertarians

Libertarianism in the twenty-first century has metamorphosed into whataboutism. When you talk to them about any political problem created by the leftists and liberals, they will respond with a counter-accusation against the conservatives or by raising an entirely different issue.

The Isha Upanishad: Action and Wisdom

Here’s a translation of verse nine of the Isha Upanishad: “The ones who worship avidya, enter blinding darkness; those who delight in vidya, enter darkness that is even deeper."

Avidya refers to the life of karma (actions which lead to the fulfillment of worldly obligations), while vidya refers to the knowledge that one gains from a study of the scriptures. This verse rejects the dichotomy between avidya and vidya, or between the life of action and the life of wisdom. Avidya is necessary for wisdom. Man cannot achieve wisdom until he has attained the worldly experience that comes from the struggle to perform the actions which lead to the fulfillment of worldly obligations. To attain a higher level of existence, he must begin by consummating the duties of the lower levels of his existence. Likewise, vidya is an essential prerequisite for karma—a man lacking in vidya, finds it difficult to make moral choices. 

Those who engage solely in actions (work), and pay no attention to intellectual pursuits, enter into darkness. While those who engage solely in intellectual pursuits become detached from reality and are lost in an ersatz world of their own rationalizations—they enter into a greater darkness. Intellectual pursuits are of little value, if man is lacking in the will to take actions which lead to the fulfillment of his worldly obligations. Thus the Isha Upanishad rejects the views of both schools: the school which preaches that good life is intellectual, and the one which preaches that good life is materialistic. A good life is a combination of both intellectual pursuits and materialistic pursuits.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Fate of Lucifer and Liberals

Lucifer was once an angel who lived in heaven, but he got corrupted and fell, and became the Devil. Similar is the fate of the liberals—in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they were the classical liberals who wanted to create an earthly heaven of knowledge, liberty, and man’s rights, but in the twentieth century, they got corrupted and fell, and they became the acolytes of the communists and fascists.

Evil is More Powerful than Good

To stir flame in others you need fire inside your mind, but the evil people have more fire in their mind than the good people—this is why, the fire of evil is higher, stronger, and widespread in most nations, and the light of good is tiny, feeble, and isolated.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Sons of Prajapati and the Problem of Evil

Evil exists in the world because good people are fewer, younger, weaker, less wise, and less decisive than evil people. This state of humanity might be in accord with God’s plan. There are verses in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad which claim that Prajapati, the creator God who emanates from the supreme cosmic spirit, first created the demons, who were old, strong, and many, and then he created the Gods, who were young, weak, and few.

Here’s the translation of verse 1.3.1:

“Prajapati gave rise to two classes of descendants: the Gods and the Demons. The Demons were created first and were the elder ones, the Gods were the younger ones. The two classes struggled with each other to gain mastery of the universe. The Gods said, “Come, let us overcome the demons at the sacrifice through the Udgitha.”

The insight that I gather from this verse is that the Gods are not only younger, they are also fewer and weaker than the demons. This is a reflection of the state of humanity—the Gods (the good people) are always fewer and weaker than the demons (the bad people), and the Gods generally arrive on the scene after the demons have created great chaos, bloodshed, and destruction. The struggle between the Gods and the demons, between the good and evil, never ends, but in most conflicts, it is the demons (the bad people) who win. 

The real meaning of this verse is different from what I have just said: 

The Gods and the demons in this verse are the organs, speech, and the rest of Prajapati—these are inclined towards material things or spiritualism, towards good or evil. When they are inclined towards the good as preached in the scriptures, they are the Gods, and when they are inclined towards the evil and go against the teachings of the scriptures, they are the demons. The distinction between the Gods and demons is a distinction of values, not of beings.

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad: The Birth of “I” and the Human Race

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, in the first three verses of the Fourth Brahmana in section one, describes the birth of the conception of “I” with the development of self-awareness in the first man of the universe (the purusa)—this event is followed by the creation of the first female, and then through the union of the first male and the first female, there is the rise of the human race. Here’s a translation of verse 1.4.1 which talks about the rise of the purusa: 

“In the beginning this (universe) was only the self in the likeness of purusa. Looking around the purusa could see nothing else except himself. He spoke his first words, “I am.” Thus at that moment the name I was born. From that moment onwards, it became a tradition that when anyone is addressed, he first says, “This is I” and then he might speak of the other name that he might have. Since before all this, he burnt every evil from everything, he is the purusa. Whoever knows this, verily, burns up all those who wish to be before him.” 

When the purusa, who is described in the Vedic and Upanishadic texts as Hiraṇyagarbha or Prajapati, utters the words, “I am,” it seems that he is committing an act of duality—for to say, “I am,” is to be aware of the existence of something that is not I and to be aware of the boundaries of one’s ego. But nothing else is in existence except the purusa—he is all that exists; he is the universe—that is why the verse talks about the burning of all those who wish to be before him. There cannot be anything before or after him, since the universe is contained inside him. 

The first emotion that the purusa feels is described in verse 1.4.2—this is the emotion of fear:

“The purusa was afraid. Thus the tradition began of the people who are alone feeling afraid. Then the question entered his mind, “Since there is nothing else other than I what am I afraid of?” His fears departed, since there was nothing in existence of which he could be fearful. Only when something other than the I exists that there might be a cause for fear.”

Verse 1.4.3 talks about the second and third emotions that the purusa feels, the feeling of loneliness and the desire for a companion—it also describes the birth of the second person, the female form:

“He did not feel happy since he was lonely. Thus the tradition began of people who are lonely feeling unhappy. He yearned for a second person who could be his companion. He made himself large and assumed the posture of a man and woman in tight embrace, and then his self split into two parts: one part was the pati (husband) and the second part was patni (wife). This is as Sage Yagnavalkya used to say, “In this respect, we are like the one half of a single person, or like one of the two halves of a split pea.” Thus the purusa had the companionship of his wife and through their union the human beings were produced.”

The verses which follow in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad’s Fourth Brahmana of section one describe the birth of other creatures of the universe and the establishment of the moral and political systems which will enable the human beings to create a society where they can live righteously. On a side note—the notion of the human race evolving from a first man who is androgynous was popular in Ancient Greece. In his dialogue Symposium, Plato talks about the androgynous male who splits into two and mates with his other half to produce the human race.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Decline of the Middle Class

The people in the democratic nations can be divided into three classes: the rich, the poor, and the middle class. The three classes are locked in a struggle for political dominance and each class uses a different method to advance its political interests. The rich class advances its political interests by lobbying, and by funding and bribing the politicians, intellectuals, academics, and journalists. The poor class consists of the rabble; they use violent and nonviolent protests to advance their political interests. The middle class does not have the financial muscle that the rich class possesses, so they cannot engage in funding, bribing, and lobbying; since most of them are farmers, professionals, and small businessmen, they are not interested in organizing protests which will shut down the economy—the only way that they can advance their political interests is by airing their grievances in the mainstream media and by voting in elections. If the mainstream media and the electoral process are corrupt and incompetent, the middle class has no way of making itself politically relevant—they become powerless, and the nation becomes a salve of the politicians and intellectuals who are owned by the corrupt rich and the ignorant poor.

The Wisdom of Solomon

In the ancient Jewish text, the Book of Wisdom, also known as the Wisdom of Solomon, the central theme is wisdom, which the text presents as god’s gift to mankind. The text is addressed to the rulers of the earth who are exhorted to be wise and righteous. In one of the passages, the immanent wisdom in righteous men is described in these words: “For she is a breath of the power of God; And a clear effulgence of the glory of the Almighty.” This means that wisdom is a godly potency which enables righteous people to have better understanding of their world so that they might make better choices in their life.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Ayn Rand’s Disregard of Wisdom

In Atlas Shrugged, a novel of eleven hundred pages, Ayn Rand uses the word “wisdom” just eight times, and she uses the word “reason” more than a thousand times. Her obsession with“reason” and disregard of “wisdom” becomes clear in the novel's Part Three, Chapter Seven, “This is John Galt Speaking,” which, according to her followers, is of Biblical significance since it embodies the crux of her philosophy. In this chapter, John Galt, the novel's protagonist, delivers a non-stop sixty-page sermon which is aimed at presenting his (Rand’s) view of the philosophical problems which are destroying the world. But Galt uses the word “wisdom” only once during his sermon and he uses the word “reason”  ninety times. 

Why doesn’t Galt talk about the importance of wisdom? Why doesn’t he say even once that good philosophy and science are quite useless in the hands of the unwise and immature? Did Rand view reason as more critical than wisdom? Did she believe that a man lacking in wisdom can use reason effectively? Did she believe that the world could become a better place without the presence of wise people? 

One of Rand’s eight usages of the word “wisdom” in the novel is for describing Galt’s superlative mind—in Part Three, Chapter Two, “The Utopia of Greed,” she writes: “I’ve always thought of him as if he had come into the world like Minerva, the goddess of wisdom who sprang forth from jupiter’s head, fully grown and fully armed…” This description of Galt as a man who has appeared in the world fully grown, fully armed with best knowledge and values is important, because it offers an insight into Rand’s flawed view of the ideal man. She regarded Galt as the personification of the ideal man. She used to insist that men like him exist. She was convinced that an ideal man would develop knowledge instantly, that he would not need years of study and practical experience to sharpen his thinking. 

The conception of “wisdom” is missing not just in Rand’s novels but also in her essays and lectures. She was probably a fine fiction writer, but she had a naive view of man and society. She had no conception of the crucial role that wisdom plays in helping men to make the right choices. She could not teach her followers to be wise. She could not teach what she herself didn’t know. The school of objectivism that she founded is a promised land; it is a magnet for the unwise.

On IQ

IQ is not everything, but it is not nothing either; it plays some role in the life of an individual, and the average IQ of the population plays some role in the quality of life in a nation.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Stoic Logos Spermatikos

Heraclitus is the first Greek philosopher to use the term “logos” to describe the principle of order and knowledge. The Greek philosophers who followed him have used the term in their own ways. For the Sophists, “logos” is the term for discourse. Aristotle too uses “logos” for discourse, but he calls it “reasoned discourse” or persuasion. But in the hands of the Stoics, the term “logos” acquires a metaphysical overtone—they talk about the logos spermatikos, which is the seed logos that pervades all inanimate and animate matter. In human beings, the logos spermatikos is the element of the divine principle which sees everything, not in parts, as human senses and human reason do, but as a whole of the truth and reality. The Ancient Hindu philosophers of the Vedic age used the concept of Supreme Brahman (which is the prime author of the universe) to describe a cosmic phenomena similar to the Stoic logos spermatikos.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Gudapada, Shankaracharya, And The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad

Assigned to the Atharvaveda, the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad consists of twelve terse mantras which discuss the problem of ultimate reality. Since the ultimate reality transcends the categories of time, space, and causation, it is incomprehensible to the human mind. To make the subject of ultimate reality comprehensible, the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad uses the syllable “Aum” (the aksara OM) to examine the divine principle on which the cosmos has been created. The Upanishad begins with the declaration: “The syllable OM is all this [whole of cosmos]. To explain further: what is called past, present and future is all just OM. Whatever else there is, beyond the three times, that too is all just OM.” This means that the four dimensions—past, present, future, and the fourth dimension which transcends time—are subsumed in OM. 

The second verse of the Upanishad says: “All this is brahman. The self is brahman. The self has four feet.” In the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth verses, the four feet of the self are described as the four states of consciousness: wakeful state, dream state, deep sleep state; and the state of being radiant with knowledge of the inner self. In verse seven, further explanation is given of the radiant fourth state of consciousness. The verses eight to twelve provide an insight into the fourfold etymological root of Aum, which consists of four symbols: A, U, M, and the fourth being free of all elements. The verse nine says that the first symbol “A” represents the waking state, and denotes the aspect of obtaining or attaining one’s desires. The verse ten says that the second symbol “U” is related to the term “utkarsa” which means rising up—the one who knows this ensures that no one in his family is lacking in the knowledge of the brahman. The verse eleven says that the third symbol “M” denotes creating and erecting or merging and dissolving—to know this is to create all this and dissolve all this. The last verse in the Upanishad, verse twelve, talks about the fourth, element-less symbol, which is inviolate, gracious, and without duality (advaita). 

The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad relates the symbols A, U, M, and the one that is element-less with the four types of soul: “A” denotes the Vaisvanara soul, the experiencer of gross things; “U” denotes the Taijasa soul, the experiencer of the subtle; “M” denotes the Prajna soul, the experiencer of creating and erecting or merging and dissolving; the element-less symbol denotes the Turiya soul, which is the supreme self. Through its depictions of the four modes of consciousness and the four types of souls, the Upanishad shows that the fourth type of consciousness and soul is the basis for the other three types. If Prajna is taken as a representation of Isvara (the Supreme God), then it can be inferred that the supreme mind which dwells in the deep sleep stage is responsible for keeping all things in a condition of becoming.

The brevity of the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad makes it difficult for readers to comprehend its philosophical wisdom. To explain its doctrine, Gudapada, the teacher of Sankaracharya’s teacher, wrote the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, which consists of 215 verses, divided into four chapters: Chapter One (29 verses), “Agama Prakarana (Traditional Doctrine); Chapter Two (38 verses), “Vaitathya Prakarana” (The Illusoriness of Self Experiences); Chapter Three (48 verses). “Advaita Prakarana” (Non-duality); Chapter Four (100 verses), “Alatasanti Prakarana” (The Quenching of the Firebrand). The first chapter examines the problem of reality as described in the Vedas and the next three chapters expound the same truth by means of reason. The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad and the Māṇḍukya Kārikā are the classical texts for the Advaita (non-dualist) Vedanta school of Hinduism. In his commentary on Gudapada’s Kārikā, Sankaracharya says that the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad contains the essence of all the Upanishads; it represents the totality of the human experience. The appeal and influence of the Māṇḍukya Upanishad has undoubtedly been enhanced by Gudapada’s Kārikā and Sankaracharya’s commentary on the Kārikā

It is impossible to accurately date the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad, but some scholars believe that it could have been developed before Buddha or in the time of Buddha—which means that it can be placed in the fifth or sixth century BC. There is controversy regarding Gudapada dates too. It is generally accepted that he flourished in the sixth century AD; this date has been proposed by scholars like S N Das Gupta who posit that since Gudapada has mentioned the word “Buddha” in his texts several times, he must be a Buddhist thinker and must belong to a period after the Buddhist teachers Asvagosa, Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu. On this basis Sankaracharya is placed in the eighth century AD. But other scholars place Gudapada in the third century BC, and Sankaracharya in the second century BC. Swami Nikhiananda is of the view that when Gudapada uses the word “Buddha,” he is not referring to the traditional founder of Buddhism, rather, he is talking about the knower of truth which is one of the meanings of the word “Buddha”. Nikhilananda holds that there is nothing in the Kārikā to connect Gudapada with Buddhism—moreover, Sankaracharya in his commentary on the Kārikā,  notes that Buddha has not taught that the essence of ultimate reality is non-dual. 

The content of an Upanishad is not to be judged by its title, but the word “Māṇḍūkya” (Sanskrit: मण्डूक) has some interesting flavors which are worth examining. This Sanskrit word can have several meanings like “frog,” “a certain breed of horse,” and “spiritual distress,” but many scholars are of the view that “frog” is the right etymological root for the word “Māṇḍūkya” in the title of the Upanishad. So for what possible reason did the sages who compiled the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad paid such a great homage to the frog? 

The unique thing about the frogs is that they hibernate in mud and water pools for several months every year. During this period they remain in isolation, far from other creatures, they do not indulge in any physical activity. Since all their bodily desires are suppressed, they do not eat or drink, they do not lust for companionship, even their breathing is controlled. When their period of hibernation is over, they emerge from the secluded space and start croaking their message. The ancient sages equated hibernation of the frogs with a life of seclusion and contemplation. They believed that human beings can minimize their material desires and the actions of their body and turn their focus on developing wisdom and spiritual values. A sage is typically a man who departs from the crowded towns and villages and goes to the secluded mountains where he leads a frugal life and studies, meditates, and develops his philosophical thoughts—in a sense, such sages are hibernating. When they achieve enlightenment, they return to the world and share their wisdom with the deserving ones.

The principle teaching of Māṇḍūkya Upanishad is that wisdom can be achieved through focussed and undistracted action—but to achieve this kind of mindset, a certain level of seclusion is necessary. Pranava, which is the exercise of meditating on the sacred syllable Aum (OM), is recommended by the Upanishad. Gudapada and Sankaracharya have preached that enlightenment can be achieved by following the teachings of the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad—the stage of enlightenment is called “turiya”, this is the stage when the mind transcends the world of material things and becomes one with the brahman, the radiant prime author of the universe.

Friday, January 1, 2021

T. S. Elliot in Little Gidding

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."