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.

Friday, January 29, 2021

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 western money, trading strategies, and technology. 

In his book The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington wrote: “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 largest business partner. But in the cultural and political sense, the two nations 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 continued to be 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 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.

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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Liberals and the Idea of Rationality

The projection of rationality is the means by which liberalism establishes its superiority. The liberals are the owners of the mouthpieces of intellectual and political discourse. They have the power to valorize their agenda as rational and 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 contests. 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. 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 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. 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, through philosophy and religion, about the eternal.

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. 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, according to Kant, is to be autonomous (free), and to be autonomous is to possess the ability to give oneself 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 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

Every political movement, even the movement for reason, liberty, and atheism, has 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. Here’s Tolstoy’s description of the French Revolution and its aftermath (from the epilog 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 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 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 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.” 

MacIntyre points out that Kant has claimed 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 was free to 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,” said Sanjaya to console the blind King Dhritarashtra who was burning with grief over the death of his sons in the great Mahabharata battle (The Mahabharata; Section: “Anukramanika Parva”; Bibek Debroy’s translation)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

MacIntyre: Human Beings as Storytelling Beings

Human beings are storytelling beings. Our life is 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. When man finds himself at a crossroad, he moves in the direction in which he thinks his life’s narrative will be sensible. 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. 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, according to MacIntyre, 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.

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 the infinite abyss of oblivion. If the bridge breaks, the civilization descends into the abyss and disappears. 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 Greek 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.”

A Supernova?

When a star goes supernova, it obliterates the world. I have the feeling that the star of the USA is about to go supernova. I hope I am wrong.

The Two Categories of People

People in any nation can be divided into two categories: the useful idiots and the natural enemies. If you are not the natural enemy of the statists, 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.” ~ 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 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 barbarians. But it is the barbarians who stand at the rise of the civilization—the statesmen, philosophers, and utopians are the ones who preside over the civilization’s decline.

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 the self-evident resource of knowledge. Since Brahma created the Vedas at the time when he created the universe, this text is timeless and has been available in every era in the history of the universe. 

From this account of the origin of the Vedas, it can be inferred that philosophy is as old as humanity itself. 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 arguments, but the thought and the wisdom is much older, it is common knowledge.

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

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 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 pre-socratic 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

Politics is like a pendulum. It 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 power should do so with the knowledge that by the implacable law of nature an equally extreme reaction will follow. Those who strike at Caesar will be shown no mercy by Augustus.

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

In his novel 1984, George Orwell notes: “If there was hope, it must lie in the proles.” Orwell realized 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 political establishment and seldom suffer any oppression, they have little incentive to fight political oppression. For the elites, liberty and free speech are just talking points. It is the masses, the proles, who fight for these values.

Man, God, and the Universe

Man, the intelligent life of the universe, is created to serve as the mediator between God and nature. His purpose is to use his wisdom and enterprise to complete the task of God’s creation. 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

“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.” ~ Thomas Sowell

High IQ does not imply genius, nor does it imply wisdom, or great knowledge, or better work ethic, or higher moral standards, or 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 the people of high IQ 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 and full of right information. However, problems of the world 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

Evil is More Powerful than Good

To stir flame in others you need fire inside your mind. The evil people have more fire in their mind than the good people. The fire of evil is higher, stronger, and widespread, 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 funding and bribing the politicians and bureaucrats. 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 the middle class 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 slave of the politicians 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 implies that wisdom is a Godly potency which enables righteous people to understand their world so that they can make better choices in their life.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Stoic Logos Spermatikos

Heraclitus was 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” was the term for discourse. Aristotle has used “logos” for discourse, but he called it “reasoned discourse” or persuasion. In the texts of the Stoics, “logos” acquired a metaphysical overtone—they wrote about the logos spermatikos, which were the seed logos that pervaded 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."