Sunday, October 29, 2023

Reason and morality are subjective, transitory and fallible

Reason is not the ultimate way of arriving at the truth, the laws of morality are not final. Both reason and morality are subjective; both are transitory and fallible. Those who believe in reason and morality can do as much harm to society as those who reject reason and morality. 

The Vedic texts preach that human beings should strive to transcend reason and morality in their quest for truth and dharma. The principles of Sanatana Dharma are rooted in spirituality (divine consciousness) and timeless historical experiences, not in reason and morality.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Leftists are top capitalists; Rightists are incompetent capitalists

The idea that leftism is anti big business is a myth. 

The reality is that the supporters of leftist ideology have been driving the global economy in the last 100 years. The leaders and investors of all top multinational companies are left-leaning.

In America, Western Europe and India outspoken socialists are running business empires worth billions of dollars. In China, the Communist Party has founded the world’s biggest business empire, worth trillions of dollars. In Russia, the billionaire oligarchs are outspoken Marxists.

The rightists are not good in business. I don’t know of any major multinational company being funded and run by rightwing conservatives, libertarians and free market advocates. The leftists are the best capitalists; the rightists are incompetent capitalists.

Sri Aurobindo: Gandhian politics, Tolstoyism and Bolshevism

Sri Aurobindo

In 1920, Sri Aurobindo said that Mahatma Gandhi’s political method, founded on Tolstoy’s ideas, could lead to the imposition of Indianised Tolstoyism or Bolshevism on India. In a letter (written in April 1920) to his brother Barin Ghose, Sri Aurobindo wrote:  

“People now want to spiritualise politics – Gandhi, for instance – but they can’t get hold of the right way. What is Gandhi doing? Making a hodge-podge called satyagraha out of ahimsa paramo dharmah [non-violence is the highest law], Jainism, hartal, passive resistance, etc.; bringing a sort of Indianised Tolstoyism into the country. The result – if there is any lasting result – will be a sort of Indianised Bolshevism.”

Sri Aurobindo was probably right in caricaturing Gandhian politics as Indianised Bolshevism. After independence, India became a soft-Bolshevik state. Nehruvian socialism and Indira Gandhi’s personality-cult socialism were the manifestations of Bolshevism. 

In a talk in July 1923, Sri Aurobindo said, “Gandhi’s position is that he does not care to remove violence from others; he wants to observe non-violence himself.” On the linkage between Gandhi and Tolstoy, Sri Aurobindo said in June 1926, “Gandhi is a European – truly, a Russian Christian in an Indian body. And there are some Indians in European bodies?” 

(Quotations in this article are from India’s Rebirth, by Sri Aurobindo)

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

On Day of Vijayadashami: Four Mahavakyas from the Upanishads

Rama story carved in wall of Shiva temple

Ellora Caves, 8th Century

On the day of Vijayadashami, the festival signifying triumph of good over evil, we should remember the four Mahavakyas (the Great Sayings) from the Upanishads: 

1. Prajnanam Brahma (प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म) — “Pure Consciousness is Brahmana" or "Brahman is insight” (Aitareya Upanishad, verse 3.3)

2. Tat Tvam Asi (तत् त्वम् असि) — “You are that” or “You are the existent” (Chāndogya Upanishad, verse 6.8.7)

3. Ayam Atma Brahma (अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म) — "This Self (Atman or soul) is Brahmana" (Māṇḍūkya Upanishad, verse 1.2)

4. Aham Brahma Asmi (अहम् ब्रह्मास्मि) - "I am Brahmana" (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad, verse 1.4.10)

The Upanishads place great emphasis on understanding the “Brahmana,” which can be defined as the divine mind (Brah + Mana). Brahmana is ananta (an + anta: infinite). The earliest Vedic texts can be dated to 6000 BC.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Victor Hugo’s fallacious argument on ideas whose time has come

"No army can stop an idea whose time has come." 

This saying, often attributed to Victor Hugo, smacks of the "hindsight is 20/20" fallacy. It is deterministic and wrong. You can look back and see which ideas have been victorious and make the claim that the time for these ideas had come. 

But this is an absurd way of analyzing history. It will not lead to an understanding of the factors that led to the victory of any idea. 

A powerful army can crush any idea. A well-armed, well-trained and powerful army, led by a ruthless and visionary political leadership, is the ultimate force in history. History is made by armies, not by ideas. 

The Middle Eastern religious and political ideas won (from 8th to 16th centuries) because the Middle Eastern empires had powerful armies. Imperialism won (from 16th to 19th centuries) for the same reason—the European empires had powerful armies. 

Marxism won in the 20th century because leaders like Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao and Castro were leading powerful political movements and armies.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Vishnu, the collectivist; Shiva, the individualist

Parvati and Dancing Shiva 

Ellora cave

Vishnu is the collectivist, Shiva the individualist. In his avataras, Vishnu builds great coalitions which destroy the forces that are trying to rip apart civilization and culture. Conserving the forces of civilization is the primary task of Vishnu’s avataras. 

In his Rama avatara, Vishnu builds a coalition with kings and communities to destroy Ravana who threatens civilization. In his Krishna avatara, he plays a pivotal role in strengthening the Pandava alliance to enable them to destroy the evil Kaurava alliance. 

Shiva does not intervene to conserve civilization. He lives in the mountains and forests. From time to time, he acts individually to fulfill his divine task of annihilating powerful forces which threaten humans and Gods. The destruction of evil armies and empires is his primary task.

The tradition of Sanatana Dharma rejects the idea of dichotomy between individualism and collectivism. During the Vedic period (more than 3000 years ago), the sages saw individualism and collectivism as the two inseparable attributes of civilized society. 

The idea of dichotomy between individualism and collectivism is a myth crafted by the European intellectuals of the nineteenth century. These intellectuals propagated the false idea that collectivism implies communism and individualism implies capitalism. 

Civilization and culture are fundamentally collectivist. Modern civilization is the outcome of thousands of years of collectivist tendencies: religions, movements and philosophies. Without collective thinking, there can be no culture, no civilization.  

Sanatana philosophy awards equal importance to individualism and collectivism. The Vedic and Puranic texts exhort us to develop our individualistic way of thinking, perform our original acts, within the framework of culture and civilization.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Frankensteins that America & Israel created in the 1980s

In the 1980s, the American CIA funded, trained, glorified and armed the Taliban in Afghanistan because they wanted to use the Taliban to destroy the Soviet Union. 

Charlie Wilson's War (by George Crile) and several other books provide a description of America’s close collaboration with the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War.

In the 1980s, the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet facilitated the rise of Hamas because they saw Hamas as a political weapon for weakening the Palestine Liberation Organisation. 

What does world history from the 1980s to 2023 tell us? 

It tells us that the political establishments in America and Israel are not interested in solving the world's problems. They intervene in other nations with the agenda of causing large-scale mindless destruction and creating new Frankensteins.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Israel versus Palestine: The human quest for meaning

All humans crave for land, but only a few quest for meaning. The ones who quest for meaning are capable of making fruitful use of the land. 

When two civilizations clash over a piece of land, it makes ethical and political sense to support the side capable of questing for meaning and making fruitful use of the land for the larger good of humanity. 

A war is raging in the Middle East—Israelis versus Palestinians. Which side is capable of questing for meaning? Which side is capable of making fruitful use of the land? 

The Israelis excel in science, technology, entrepreneurship, medicine, agriculture, defence, political theory, philosophy, art and literature. What are the Palestinian achievements?

Which side should we support? Those who believe in humanity, those who want a betterment of the human condition, have no alternative except to support the side that is capable of questing for meaning and making fruitful use of the land: this means Israel.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Perfection is not possible; Lord Agni’s fire is enveloped in smoke

The quest for perfection is futile. Even the powerful Gods cannot create perfection in the universe. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna (verse 3.38) that Lord Agni is enveloped by smoke. 

Lord Agni is one of the most powerful Vedic Gods. In the Vedas, he is often invoked along with Lord Indra and Lord Soma. In the Vedic tradition, Lord Agni is regarded as the mouth of the Gods—through Lord Agni’s mouth the offerings reach the Gods. He resides on earth as fire, in the air as lightning and in the cosmos as the sun and the stars.

Yet even Lord Agni cannot attain perfection. In his manifestations, his fire is always enveloped by smoke. When Lord Agni cannot attain perfection, then there is no chance for humans to themselves be perfect or create anything that is perfect. 

The history of the last 2000 years shows that the civilizational movements that have quested for perfection have always led to bloodbath and destruction. 

In the Middle Ages, the Islamic armies rampaged across Asia, and parts of Europe and Africa, to create a perfect society of God. Instead of perfection, they unleashed death and destruction wherever they went. Their wars and violence are still raging in the Middle East and many other parts of the world. 

Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin tried to create a perfect Bolshevik society through nationalization of all property and wealth, imposition of five year plans, and banishment of dissidents to concentration camps and firing squads. Hitler and the Nazis tried to create a perfect Aryan society through World War and gas chambers. Instead of perfection, they brought destruction to their society. 

The libertarian movements dreamed of creating a perfect capitalist and individualistic society but they got mired in nihilism, cultism, naivety, amorality and social-alienation. 

Human efforts can never lead to perfection. Our best will never be perfect. The human mind, all human actions, and all human creations have good and bad aspects, and they lead to good and bad consequences.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Bhagavad Gita: Metaphysical and moral implications of the theory of rebirth, redeath

Every birth is a rebirth, every death is a redeath. This applies to everything inside the universe and to the universe itself. 

Every entity or conception—living and non-living, mental and physical, time and space, memory and history, smallest atom to the largest stars and blackholes—must one day die or be destroyed. Death or destruction is not the end—it is the prelude to rebirth or recreation.  

In the cycle of rebirth and redeath, creation and destruction nothing is lost. Mass and energy are always in a state of equilibrium irrespective of the universe being in the phase of creation or destruction. History and memory are not lost at the time of death—their essence gets transferred to the mind of the new generations, making them wise or naive, moral or nihilistic, and leading them to perform good or bad deeds, attain success or failure in their lifetime. 

The philosophy of rebirth and redeath has metaphysical and moral implications. 

The metaphysical implication is that the universe is a battleground of mass and energy. Energy seeks to rip apart the physical bodies, while mass seeks to empower itself by absorbing and digesting the energy. The contest between mass and energy lasts for as long as the universe (time and space) lasts and leads to the creation, motion and eventual obliteration of all heavenly bodies—atoms, moons, planets, stars, supernovas. 

The moral implication is that the good or bad things that happen to us are not due to “chance”; they are not the outcome of “God’s will” either. They are the outcome of our past karma. In this life you are reaping the fruits of your deeds in your past lives, and what you do in this life will have an impact on your subsequent rebirths. One must live morally because immoral conduct has implications for not just this life but all future lives. 

All this is one of the important teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Saptarshi in the asterism of the Big Dipper

In ancient Indian astronomy, the asterism of the Big Dipper is described as the physical representation of the Saptarshi, the seven sages who are extolled in the Vedas, Puranas, the Mahabharata and several other ancient texts.

The seven bright stars of the Big Dipper are the universal forms of the seven sages whose names, according to Shatapatha Brahmana and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, are: Atri, Bharadvaja, Gautama Maharishi, Jamadagni, Kashyapa, Vasistha and Vishvamitra.

The Mahabharata gives their names as: Marichi, Atri, Pulaha, Pulastya, Kratu, Vasistha and Angiras. Other ancient texts give slightly different names for the seven sages.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Culture, collectivism and civilization: What the Upanishads say

Stone wheel engraved on walls of

Konark Temple

Collectivism is the fountainhead of culture and civilization. The more sophisticated the society, the more collectivist its institutions and philosophies are. In contrast, the primitive societies were simplistic; they were collectivist to a much lesser degree.

In the broad prehistoric period known as the Stone Age, humans lived in small groups of 5 to 100 individuals linked by ties of blood. The process of building large-scale civilizations began 25,000 to 15,000 years ago, when the concept of religion came into being and people started coming together in the name of God to build large groups. 

Religion was the first collectivist movement of mankind. The successful religions brought millions of people together and got them to cooperate for developing other collectivist philosophies and movements. Some of these collectivist movements became powerful city-states and empires where collectivist tendencies continued to grow.

The postmodern man is a product of tens of thousands of years of collectivism in the form of— religions, movements, philosophies and other civilizational forces. The antithesis of collectivism is individualism, which is anti-culture and leads to nihilism, immorality, atheism, anarchy, weakness and decay. 

Why is religion the fundamental force that binds civilizations? 

One of the teachings of the Upanishads is that to live a fulfilling life we need meaning and challenge. We have the natural urge try to understand our place in the universe and we want to achieve something that is challenging, perhaps impossible, something that we believe no one has achieved before. 

Religion is the fundamental civilizational force because it offers avenues for both meaning and challenge. 

The Upanishads preach that the urges for meaning and challenge are part of mankind’s collective evolution. We try to find meaning in the notion of divinity that our culture and civilization has bestowed on us and we try to excel within the framework of the society with which we identify. In the modern or postmodern age, some try to find meaning in the secular philosophies which too are products of thousands of years of collectivism and culture. 

The adventure of human life is to join the human struggle for discovering who we are, what is our place in the universe, what is morality, what is the significance of the life that we get to lead before we die—this is one of the key teachings of the Upanishads.