Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sri Aurobindo was hardly a champion of any religious creed

AntiMatters, Vol 3, No 4 (2009) About Home > Vol 3, No 4 (2009) > Banerji
Sri Aurobindo, India and Ideological Discourse
Debashish Banerji
Abstract: In the first part of this talk, I consider Sri Aurobindo's nationalism and contextualize it within the colonial-national interchange and the modern understanding of the nation. This includes a consideration of the nation-soul idea. In the second part, I apply the implications of this nationalism to Sri Aurobindo's social ideas - concerning the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Auroville and, in general, the social context of the Integral Yoga and his vision of the future, so as to engage reflection on the present. Full Text: PDF
Talk presented at Fundamentalism and the Future, Conference held at California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA, September 11–12, 2009. Originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of Collaboration . Republished with permission.

Sri Aurobindo has been increasingly marginalized or co-opted by a variety of mainstream discourses. He has been appropriated, for instance, by the Hindu right, along with Vivekananda. Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo are now seen as the founding figures of what is known as Hindutva3 in India. And along with this, happily accepting this identification, the Marxist left has turned on Sri Aurobindo as one of its "whipping boys." So Sri Aurobindo has increasingly been reduced to this image in modern and contemporary scholarship: either a champion, one of the founding figures or "mascots" of Hindutva, or "the whipping boy" of Indian Marxism.4

Now both of these are gross reductions. Sri Aurobindo in fact, had socialistic leanings, though he was generally averse to any ideological labeling. Thus, when necessary, he contested authoritarianism in the practice of Socialism. He stood against both Stalinism and Maoist China as regimes creating political conditions which stifled the freedom of individual growth. Yet, he was definitely not in favor of a rampant capitalism, identifying it as "economic barbarism." So there are grounds for constellating Sri Aurobindo with certain socialistic thinkers in terms of his intellectual preferences.

As far as religion and spirituality are concerned, as clearly evidenced by the passage from The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo was hardly a champion of any religious creed, attempting to cabin the approach to the Divine in terms of boundaries or a certain national history. In the passage of our consideration, he has very clearly conceptualized a field of plural religion and spiritual practice in premodern India.

However, he has been co-opted by the emergent political field of Hindutva in modern times. This has led to a certain perception of Sri Aurobindo in mainstream Indian discourse and among a large number of his Indian followers as the champion or founder of this unitarian definition of Hinduism.
This image has sought its support in certain texts of Sri Aurobindo. These are usually early nationalistic texts which have been taken out of context and interpreted in modern times according to prevalent discourses of nationalistic religion. [...]

An important thing to bear in mind, is that 19th century Europe was shot through and through with the idea of this racial philosophy of history. Today we may find it difficult to believe, but the whole of the 19th century Europe was pervaded by the sense of racism. It wasn’t something exclusive to Germany. It was in England, it was all over Europe. There was a sense that the world is made up of races, and these races can be arranged in a classification scheme which represents them eternally in their essential truth in terms of a hierarchy of scale. It was this racial essence which stood largely behind the European idea of the nation. This was the discourse of Racist Enlightenment and it was the predominant discourse of colonialism.

Thus we can see that the idea of nation soul arises out of the discourse of the Enlightenment and its extension in colonialism. Sri Aurobindo, Vivekananda, and other thinkers of the Bengal Renaissance have subverted this colonial discourse by inserting a spiritual content into it. This is the dialogic response to the interpellation of racial colonialism, whether Positivist or Orientalist. This is the acceptance of the interpel-lated discourse which becomes transformed in the retelling. What was attempted by these Indian nationalist spiritual thinkers was the extension of an alternate discourse in the forms of the West. It appeared to be new, but it may be seen as a case of old wine in new bottles. It was the spiritual knowledge and experience of the colonized culture being crafted in the discourse of the colonizer. Along with a spiritual inflection to racial essence came a transformed content to the nation soul. [...]

Modernity with its homogenizing forces, with its ability to isolate and disperse populations across the globe is contested by alternate societies, alternate social forms, what today we call intentional communities. But the idea of the intentional community as an alternate form to the drive of modernity was part of the discourse of Indian nationalism, not only present before Sri Aurobindo but continuing after him.

It is the idea of the spiritual community, the intentional community of Universal Man-making, Visva-Bharati, that was fielded by Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan, for example, prior to the birth of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Again, it is the idea of a spiritual community dedicated to truth and a simple life of offering to the Divine that was privileged by Gandhi in his vision of the postcolonial village, and in his own ashram at Sabarmati. It is this idea of spiritual community that takes a certain form with Sri Aurobindo, which is not a pre-modern form, but a postmodern form. That is something important we need to realize. It is the privileging of a communitarian social form but in a way which puts it into dialogue with the forces of modernity. [...]

When instead of evolving towards a greater freedom of collective expression arising from inner union, a passive surrender in the disciples demands literal solutions to every trivial concern, the ashram devolves into a religious order or cult. Instead of a plural field of becoming and embodiment, it begins to be dominated by parasitic forces who erect an unreachable icon and a cultic practice and demand boons of mundane satisfaction from it. On the other hand, what responds to them is no longer the guru but a number of intermediate authorities who rise to take advantage of the need for displaced or surrogate responsibility. The light that leaned down from Above recedes and what is left in its place is a ground reality of the rhetoric and politics of authorization, the control of substitute authorities in place of the freedom and beauty of Love, and the regime of Theology in the name of Knowledge.

It is important to ponder these possibilities in the ideal and life of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. In the later years of her life, the Mother took this ideal a step closer to the world at large with the creation of Auroville. Among other things, the Mother may have responded to some of the shadows of the ashram idea in setting up an alternate social field for the practice of the same yoga. Here, she insisted, there was to be no religious worship and no hierarchic authority. It is the aspiration for Becoming, a growth of consciousness in individuals representing all forms of world culture, which alone would safeguard the progress to Unity and Harmony for this society.

Thus, shorn of all premodern "Indian" formalisms, it represented a postmodern form, free of traditional commitments. But set up to be independent and in the proximity of the ashram, what Auroville also represented is an opportunity for a dialogue between premodern Indian forms of spiritual culture with a long cultural history and a new postmodern international form built purely on the foundation of a spiritual anthropol-ogy, an integral psychology for achieving the same goals. As we know from the history of these organizations, that dialogue was sundered and remains largely unexplored.

Today, the rise of Hindutva as an identity construct in India combined with a religious interpretation of the Integral Yoga among many at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, threatens to define tight boundaries of belonging and normative behavior in the originating social context which was conceived by its founders as a laboratory representative of humanity and a world transforming practice. With the departure of the Masters and the early generations of disciples who lived in their atmosphere of plastic wideness, depth and height — a culture which enabled individual interpretation, practice, expression and an increasing inner growth into Oneness — what seems to be developing is a field of politics, group conditioning, cultic identity and majorita-rian justice.

Today the social habitus necessary to the flowering of the Integral Yoga may be in danger. It is time for all people of sincerity and aspiration, who have been touched by the light that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother brought to humankind, to introspect deeply and to rethink our choices, alignments, responsibilities and actions. BANERJI : SRI AUROBINDO, INDIA AND IDEOLOGICAL DISCOURSE 112

(title unknown) from enowning by enowning
Morgan Meis in The Smart Set on the danger in the world. In short, Heidegger came to believe that Husserl's phenomenological method was abstracting away all the juicy stuff that makes up the world we actually perceive. [...]

Once you've established that human beings understand the world in different ways depending on all kinds of circumstances, you have also opened up the possibility that there are better and worse ways to relate to the world. In Being and Time, for instance, Heidegger argues that since human beings are the sort of creatures that wonder about themselves, that ask the question "What is it to be a human being?" it is more authentic for such human beings to live in a culture that encourages people to think about that question in the deepest way. Heidegger noted that there were two such notable societies, the ancient Greeks and the Germans. And here we can further understand Heidegger's rather enigmatic attraction to the Nazis.

He found the Nazis exciting because he thought that they were encouraging the Germans to think really hard about what it means to be Germans. This encouraged thinking Germans to be human beings at the highest level of being a human being: creatures who constantly question what it means for a human being really to be a human being. His ultimate disappointment with the Nazis was, thus, a disappointment with their ability to pull this off, to make Germany into the great cosmic center of thinking about the Question of Being. In the end, the way Heidegger saw it, the Nazis failed him.

Write Heidegger's philosophy off all you like, expunge it from the records. But the problem isn't going to go away. At its heart, the debate between Husserl and Heidegger touches at root issues of how we understand the world and whether that understanding is stable and timeless. Heidegger was not a "relativist" (as the accusation sometimes goes), but he was deeply convinced that human beings are what they are, in the deepest ways, because of the cultures, traditions, and modes of life from which they spring.

For those who are convinced that there is deep truth in that insight (and this includes most of us, if we stop and think about it for a moment), Heidegger is our contemporary. His particular take on Phenomenology opened up huge new philosophical possibilities that directly influenced schools of thought like Existentialism, Deconstruction, and Pragmatism. More important, the tentacles of Heidegger's thinking are part of what set the stage for many of our most trenchant debates about history, culture, and human nature. Heidegger (cue ominous music here) is everywhere. That means the ugliness is everywhere, too. Once you connect "being human" to a certain set of traditions, to a nation or an ethnicity or anything else, the little fascist inside begins to grow.

Heidegger's little fascist was nastier and more virulent than most. Screw him then, throw him to the dogs. I suspect, though, that the little fascist is alive and well in many of us. Heidegger walked down a road that all of us have taken to some degree. The monstrous detour down which Heidegger got lost is not as difficult to stumble upon as we like to pretend. Every time we try to suppress Heidegger, we end up reminding ourselves that he hasn't gone away. • 2 December 2009 Home > Columns > Idle Chatter The Heidegger in All of UsWhether we like it or not... Morgan Meis is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for The Believer, Harper’s, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily. He can be reached at

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bring religious rationales and religious voices into the conversation

Rethinking secularism: Life after past evil: an interview with Daniel Philpott posted by Nathan Schneider
Professor Daniel Philpott is a leading theorist of global politics and religion at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and in the Department of Political Science. He is the author of the forthcoming Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation, which proposes a comprehensive conceptual framework for peacebuilding in the wake of conflict. This interview was conducted in conjunction with the SSRC’s project on Religion and International Affairs.—ed.

Augustine was centrally concerned with whether killing a person could be compatible with the love of Christ; yet, over time, the core commitments of his ideas on just war have come to be expressed in secular terms. It’s very important that they did so, since the human rights community, the international law community, and the U.N. all have a very secular mindset.

On the one hand, I would like the liberal peace community to be more open to bringing religious rationales and religious voices into the conversation. But on the other, religious people should do their part by learning how to express their values in both religious and secular vocabularies. [...]

Military academies in the United States take just war theory very seriously. This is what they teach their soldiers: no, you can’t kill civilians; no, you can’t wage aggressive war. The standards are really tough, and people are expected to conduct themselves in that way. It’s also ensconced in international law. My dream is that the ethic of reconciliation will have a similar status, providing a cookbook for how to approach certain problems, even if, at times, it is going to wind up being compromised. [...]

And, while some argue that punishment is inimical to reconciliation, I think there is a legitimate role for it. I accept the central commitments of the liberal peace framework, but I think that a broader, more encompassing approach is needed for bringing about justice in the wake of war, genocide, and dictatorship.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Capitalism promises neither to produce heaven on earth nor to engineer any New and Better Man

10:46 AM A Final Thought on November 9th from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux
Here’s a letter that I sent this morning to the Gray Lady:

Slavoj Zizek rightly complains – if with understatement bordering on the vulgar – of being “deceived” by communism (”20 Years of Collapse,” Nov. 9). But like many other pundits who feign wisdom by steering clear of what they mistakenly interpret to be an extreme position, he complains also of being “disillusioned” by capitalism.

Capitalism is indeed poles apart from communism, but not in a way that renders society best served by some compromise between the two. Unlike communism and milder forms of collectivism, capitalism is not imposed; it is simply what arises when adults are free to engage in consensual commercial acts in cultures that respect private property rights and largely reject both status and superstition as guides to decision-making. Also unlike communism, capitalism conscripts no one to serve other persons’ ends; individuals can opt out of capitalist societies.

Perhaps most importantly, unlike communism, capitalism promises neither to produce heaven on earth nor to engineer any New and Better Man – and so capitalism gives rise to none of the murderous zealotry endemic to communism. Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux

Simonizing from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux
Here’s a letter that I sent yesterday to the Washington Post:

Brian Czech repeats one of today’s most frequently heard mantras – namely, that continued economic and population growth spell disaster for the planet and humanity (Letters, Nov. 5).

Virtually all available evidence contradicts this doomsday claim. For example, the earth’s population today is seven times larger than it was in 1800, and yet most people today live lives that are far more sanitary, healthy, long, and rich in experiences than were those of all but the most privileged potentates and pooh-bahs before the industrial age. Each hectare of land now feeds more mouths and clothes more bodies than ever before. Water and air in capitalist countries are cleaner than they were a century ago, or even just 50 years ago – and still getting cleaner. Available supplies of oil and most other raw materials show no signs of being depleted, despite the fact that today we use absolutely larger quantities of these materials.

Mr. Czech commits the common mistake of assuming that humans are net consumers of resources. But when markets are reasonably free and property rights extensive and secure, most people are net producers. History amply supports this claim. I challenge Mr. Czech or anyone else to offer evidence to the contrary. Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux

Selfishness is No Virtue from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

Smith’s criticism of Bernard Mandeville (Private Vice, Public Benefit, 1724) is quite specific on selfishness and Greg Baldwin attributes to Adam Smith what Mandeville became notorious for – making a virtue out of selfishness, a theme taken up by Ayn Rand (The Virtue of Selfishness), another person confused with Adam Smith’s diametrically opposed and explicit views about morality. Self interest is not about selfishness.

If everybody tries takes and few give in exchange, commercial society would be impossible. The very act of exchange is about each giving something to the other party which they prefer in place of what they give up to get it.If everybody expects others to give without them getting something back, we would soon be impoverished. Poverty is the absence of exchange relations; it is not caused by them, Greg.

Self-Interest is Not Selfishness from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

Each party is self-interested in the outcome, but (and it is an important ‘but’) neither can obtain what they want without addressing what the other wants in voluntary exchange transactions. Two utterly selfish egoists would seldom, if ever, come to a voluntary agreement – neither would give up anything in place of demanding their price “or else”. As Smith put it, in social converation we “persuade” to get what we want. Highlighting why something (what we offer to give) is good for someone is often a good place to start when seeking what we want to get.


Adam Smith never said anything like: ‘the common good emerges when everybody works for their own selfish interest’... In fact, Smith never spoke favourably of selfishness. Richard confuses him with Ayn Rand (1960s) or even Bernard Mandeville (1734). They both lauded selfishness (Rand by making it a virtue and Mandeville by making it a social compulsion – ‘private vice, public benefits’). But not Adam Smith; he called Mandeville's theory 'licentious'. -- Friends Like Richard Are No Help At All from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

Adam Smith never endorsed a policy of, or the behaviour of, greed. That is to confuse Adam Smith with Bernard Mandeville, author of the Fable of the Bees, 1734 (written over the years 1704 to 1737), who made greed a private vice but a public good. Folly Of Relying on Poor Teaching from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

I am familiar with the works of Adam Smith and know something about his use of the metaphor of ‘an invisible hand’, which he used once in 1759 in The Theory of Moral Sentiments at TMS IV.1.10: p 184, and once in 1776 in Wealth Of Nations (short-title) at: Book IV.ii.9: page 456. He also, for the record referred to ‘the invisible hand of Jupiter’ in an essay, unpublished in his lifetime, known by its short-title as History of Astronomy, when he described the ‘pusillanimous superstition’ in pagan societies. In none of these cases was his use of an invisible hand metaphor anything to do with how simple price markets work. Indeed, the operation of market choice is so simple that your charming six-year-old daughter can understand how they work. -- from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

Some things are sufficiently constant in human affairs - and self-interest, even greed, is among them - that they explain nothing. "Greed" certainly can be unleashed to do harm, but it can also be harnessed to do good. -- Donald J. Boudreaux "Greed" Is Not an Explanation from Cafe Hayek

The fact is that the relationships each of us has with our fellow citizens overwhelmingly are of the arm’s-length, impersonal variety. They are market relationships, governed chiefly by self-interest on both sides of each exchange. They are not the sorts of personal relationships that guide decisions made within households. They are, indeed, precisely the sorts of relationships that each of us has with strangers from foreign countries. The Nation Is Not a House from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux

Friday, November 6, 2009

Apolitical riskless private sphere

Hegel also offers the first polemically political definition of the bourgeois. The bourgeois is an individual who does not want to leave the apolitical riskless private sphere. He rests in the possession of his private property, and under the justification of his possessive individualism he acts as an individual against the totality. He is a man who finds his compensation for his political nullity in the fruits of freedom and enrichment and above all in the total security of its use. Consequently he wants to be spared bravery and exempted from the danger of a violent death. [The concept of the political - Google Books Result by Carl Schmitt, George Schwab - 2007 - Philosophy - 126 pages] 9:32 AM

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In democracies, liberty precedes equality

Mukesh’s Sacrifice from Gurcharan Das by gurcharan
Corporate Affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, created quite a stir recently when he warned companies to refrain from paying “vulgar salaries” or face the music. Mukesh Ambani took his advice and cut his salary by 65%. Flaunting wealth is distasteful; it is also imprudent when market capitalism is still trying to find a comfortable home in India.

However, the minister was profoundly wrong. The trouble with judging other people’s lifestyle is that soon you are tempted to control other things, and this is a short step to the command economy. Not to live ostentatiously is a call of dharma, not a legal duty.

The distinguished minister, who is a sensible lawyer, quickly realized his error and pulled back the next day. “Only the company’s shareholders can decide salaries…It cannot be mandated, but should be self-exercised,” he said. Yes, this is the right position—only shareholders have the right to fix salaries in a democracy, not the government. The significance of the minister’s two positions, however, goes beyond vulgar salaries and reflects an old conflict between our ideals of liberty and equality.

There is a voice in each of us which values liberty. It was alarmed at the spectre of the dreaded days prior to 1991 when our government did believe that the way to make a poor person rich is by making the rich poor. There is another voice, however, which values equality. This egalitarian voice was sympathetic to Khurshid’s advice to CEOs. Millions are hurting from the global economic recession and something is wrong when some earn Rs 40 crores while 250 million Indians survive on less than Rs 50 a day.

These two voices constitute the modern idea of a fair society. In democracies, liberty precedes equality. Socialist societies value equality more and will sacrifice freedom for more state control. The contest between these two ideals has been going on for 200 years but it ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Liberty won, and it will win in China too one day. Absolute equality is unrealistic because the human ego will not shrink that far. So we have learned to live with the lesser goal of an “equality of opportunity”. In our desire for a just society, the political Left continues to champion equality while the Right gives precedence to liberty.

I have always believed that it is none of my business how much Mukesh Ambani earns. He creates lots of jobs, pays his taxes, produces wealth for society--and that is good enough for me. Moreover, we ought to be more concerned with reducing poverty in a poor country rather worry about inequality. Controlling CEO salaries will not lift the poor. But economic reforms will. A minister of corporate affairs can make a huge difference by making it easier for a person to start and run a business. The vast majority of Indians are self-employed entrepreneurs in the informal economy. They cannot enter the formal economy because of formidable barriers of red tape and bribery. Hence, India has the shameful distinction of being 134 in a list of 180 countries in the ease of doing business. Cut the tape, Mr Minister, and you will spawn enterprise and prosperity.

A well-ordered society, however, ought to design institutions that help to diminish inequality while preserving liberty. If the advantages of the affluent are perceived as a reward for improving the situation of the worst off, then the inequality will be perceived as more just. If the lowest worker in a company believes that his prospects will improve if his company performs well, then he will not resent an outstanding CEO earning 50 times more. This was elaborated elegantly by the American thinker, John Rawls, in his famous book, The Theory of Justice.

If you want to take the sting out inequality, Mr Minister, cut red tape but also give the poor titles to their small property so that they can get a loan against it and start a business. And persuade your UPA colleagues to implement labour reforms so that 90% of Indians in the informal economy can hope for some sort of safety net. This is the way to genuine, inclusive growth. And let’s not worry too much about vulgar salaries. [STOI-18.10.09]

Revolution Calling! from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik
I am not a journalist. I am a revolutionary. I don’t write for fun. There is a serious purpose to all this – the overthrow of the regime. The first “Antidote” column published in ET in 1998 was titled “Revolution Calling!” I remain singing the same song.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recharge moral bearings as the followers of Mahatma Gandhi

Vulgar is as vulgar does Salman Khursheed Indian Express, Monday 12 October, 2009 The recent debate regarding unacceptably high corporate salaries has been engaging as well as somewhat surprising. It is therefore important that the context be understood...
There is one last argument that clever populists throw at politicians: physician, heal thyself! There is talk about bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi, unlimited phone calls, cars and allowances, so what if the salaries are modest.
I can only suggest please come and be our guests for a week; put up with the hundreds of petitioners for jobs and other help; answer our phone which starts to ring at 5am and does not stop till well past midnight; spend some days in our constituencies and at the same time try to keep yourself from not uttering a single word that the press can turn into a story. Finally just think that whatever we have, the good and the bad, is often for a fleeting moment (short years) and then a tough election makes the rest of the life that is left pretty ugly!
Meanwhile find the money it takes to nurse a constituency and every election, including the one clearly lost before the campaign begins. We accept democracy so why should you not even want to talk about it? Talking never did anyoneany harm and then, as Amartya Sen says, we are argumentative indeed.
Meanwhile it is important to note that the recent talk of austerity in the party is not a political sham or necessarily about a few weeks or months of “abstaining from felicity” in the words of King Lear, but an honest exercise to recharge our moral bearings as the followers of Mahatma Gandhi. Not everything we sacrifice will change the world but it will change us, most certainly. If we do change, those who question our public morality will have to stop using that as an alibi for not doing the right thing themselves. One should not resort to populism to accuse another of populism.
Meanwhile just as a few black sheep should not tarnish the entire herd; the many enlightened corporates should not allow a few myopic or less-informed colleagues to speak for the entire fellowship. Even as the industry associations ask what the country can do for you, it will be nice to know what we together can do for those of our compatriots who have no voice in the money market but do have a place in the market of ideas and dreams. Ultimately these are also the people who will add to national savings and hopefully direct them to the capital market, as corporate India and the aam aadmi collaborate. The writer is a Union minister.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Terrorism as a super-entity

At the outset, I suppose I should confess that I have an almost visceral suspicion of philosophical and political discourses that make normativity their central focus. On the one hand, I associate this sort of focus with neoliberal and conservative discourses that obfuscate social issues by portraying them as issues of “values” and rights. There seems to be a way in which the moment we begin talking about values and normativity, discussion and politics gets detached from the structure of concrete situations, rendering all of that invisible. This has even been enshrined in the whole distinction between the “is” and the “ought”. Insofar as the “is” is completely separated from the “ought”, normative discourses see themselves as entitled to ignore the “is” altogether.

As a Marxist and a historical materialist, I simply think this is the wrong way to go. Moreover, contrary to those who seem to believe that neoliberalism is a discourse where self-interest is the only deciding factor and that Marxism is an axiological discourse independent of self-interest, I can’t help but see that Marx’s arguments are based on interests. What Marx shows is that our self-interest lies with the collectivity. This is why, for example, we join unions, pay taxes, form institutions to protect ourselves, and so on. A Further Note on Normativity, Politics, and OOO from Larval Subjects

Here at Larval Subjects I have often railed against forms of political discourse that target “capitalism” or “neoliberalism”. This is not because I am pro-capitalism or pro-neoliberalism, but because I believe these sorts of discourses turn capitalism and neoliberalism into “super-entities” against which it is impossible to struggle because they are everywhere and nowhere. Just as you cannot eat fruit as such, but only grapes, apples, oranges, etc., you can’t fight capitalism or neoliberalism as such.

The point is simple, you can only act on a global system through local elements within a network. The problem with discourses centered around capitalism and neoliberalism is that they’re just too baggy and they render these local networks invisible, denying us any route of action. We fall into theoretical pessimism.

In this respect, the struggle against capitalism resembles the struggle against terrorism under the last administration. By turning “terrorism” into a super-entity or an entity in its own right, we turned it into something that is everywhere and nowhere. Yet all we can act on with respect to terrorism is local networks. However, acting on these local networks can have profound effects on the larger network. Materialism, Privilege, Revolution from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Seminar Discussions Are Not Political Demonstrations
Let us be clear about the kind of “political intervention” cultural studies was supposed to represent. It was first an expansion of teachable materials to include popular culture and other kinds of marginalized productions. It was also heir to efforts by the Frankfurt School to produce new, more complex, less reductive kinds of Marxist cultural criticism. At bottom, the link between these two different goals had to do with the ways that Marxist ideals would justify the inclusion of “lower” forms of culture, either because popular culture represented the ideas and contributions of the masses, or else because it demonstrated forms of ideological control over the masses. The odd result was that hostile readings of Dickens became part of the “culture wars,” and so did appreciative readings of Madonna. Berube describes this as a lamentable conflation that happened to “cultural studies” when it was annexed by “cultural criticism,” but it was really a natural result of writers like Theodor Adorno being willing to include essays on jazz and film as long as he was allowed to denounce them unequivocally. Eventually somebody else started writing essays on jazz and film who begged to differ with Adorno about their value — and so on all the way to modern essays about American Idol. [...]

There should be classes on political rhetoric, which would do well to analyze people like Glenn Beck, and there should be classes on aesthetic categories, including pieces of popular culture where appropriate. Departmental divisions and differences should remain within the over-arching umbrella of the “humanities,” rather than collapsing into one uber-class on hegemony. It is a sorry testament to the way modern academic understandings of “the political” have inhibited political work that academic outsiders like Greil Marcus have produced some of the best and most enduring works of “cultural studies” — books like Lipstick Traces that are much better than the canons of founding fathers such as Stuart Hall, and have no difficulty remaining in print. I agree with Andrew Seal that merely “complicating” existing pictures of neoliberalism and the political economy, as Berube proposes, is not doing enough. That sounds like embroidering a fundamental resignation with colorful, distracting dissent. But there isn’t another, better word out there, because the study of culture cannot begin with a set of political demands. It has to begin with intellectual curiosity and a sensitive ear for what individuals and institutions are trying to express, letting that access of understanding speak to issues of immediate political concern how it will. Don’t Know Much About Politics: Tough Questions About the UC Walkout and the Cultural Studies Debate from The Kugelmass Episodes by Joseph Kugelmass (x-posted to The Valve)

Home Opinion & Ideas The Chronicle Review September 14, 2009 What's the Matter With Cultural Studies? The popular discipline has lost its bearings
By Michael Bérubé

But I still have hope that the history of cultural studies might matter to the university—and to the world beyond it. My hopes aren't quite as ambitious as they were 20 years ago. I no longer expect cultural studies to transform the disciplines. But I do think cultural studies can do a better job of complicating the political-economy model in media theory, a better job of complicating our accounts of neoliberalism, and a better job of convincing people inside and outside the university that cultural studies' understanding of hegemony is a form of understanding with great explanatory power—that is to say, a form of understanding that actually works. Michael Bérubé is a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University at University Park. His next book, "The Left at War," will be published by New York University Press in November.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A no-waste community with people living in peace constantly innovating and inventing

Imagining a new tech savy India CIOL - Bangalore, Karnataka, India The fact Auroville has been successful in India shows it is possible. ... Think Auroville. Just look South to Puducherry. Auroville is not only a self ...
Think Green. Think Technology. Think Auroville
Deepa Kandaswamy
NEW DELHI, INDIA: Monday, September 14, 2009

Imagine what an incredible India we could create if we followed the example of Auroville. We would be self sufficient in power and basic needswith solar roofs, desalination plants, recycling and processing plants, wind turbines in the garden, hybrid vehicles, green communication, and e-governance. Nothing is free and we would require discipline. The fact Auroville has been successful in India shows it is possible. [...] So here is what can be done to end the recession.

Ban Personal Income Tax: Indians are taxed in so many different ways that makes personal income tax completely unnecessary. So, for starters, the government should ban income tax on individuals. This will put more money in the hands of people who will spend it instead of the government creating schemes or handouts.

Kill Socialism: India needs to kill socialism that is spreading like the swine flu in government and disinvest in public sector enterprises. The logic is government subsidizes failures of government owned public sector enterprises as it belongs to no one and repeatedly allows unions of these companies to blackmail politicians for votes. A government is there to govern and not run businesses. We require a real laissez faire government as it means hands off.

Bankruptcy Laws: We need bankruptcy laws to encourage entrepreneurs and new companies and protect old companies. In India, if a private enterprise fails due to outdated laws and others which are retrospective in nature, failure of private enterprises is not just due to incompetence but also due to laws that actually prevent a person(s) from becoming an entrepreneur.

Private Banking: There is a big need for more private banks, especially at the local level. A good model would be the SEWA bank run by women in Gujarat. Not only do they provide credit for those with little access to it, they are prime movers in encouraging entrepreneurship among those with talent and ideas. They create competition in the financial sector which have few players and is monopolized by the government.

Triple No: There should be no SEZ projects, no quotas in any form and no subsidizing failures by the government. All these measures kill genuine competition and create artificial regions and companies of growth in the country. We have a competent private sector that can grow on their own without government pull or pressure. Companies dont need handouts or interference. This will go a long way towards removing corruption in the system.

Environment as a Financial Component: While designing or managing a company, so far we dont do environmental budgeting. We need to do so as at least from now on as global warming is felt by everyone now. It is not a topic which can be avoided or skipped over anymore. Environmental degradation comes at a financial cost that is real. This is a challenge but also an opportunity. It provides a chance for new entrepreneurs, especially those who can develop e-friendly technology or solve environmental problems at a small and medium scale. This goes towards solving the larger problem and also makes money.

The recession is an opportunity to face the monumental challenges and to redefine or change our fundamental way of doing business. With the governmental ban on income tax, it would give us an opportunity and the resources to refashion and redesign the world we live in. The way forward is not to go on as before.

For a long time, India has been growing despite the government and not because of it, unlike China. Many think China is the ideal model but this is false as it is on the brink of a revolution anytime as their growth is artificial which comes at the cost of human rights and environmental destruction. With a truly laissez faire government in India, we might have a real chance at ending the recession and becoming the leaders in the world, instead of being second-hand superpowers.

Inventions and innovations are happening in India but are usually sponsored by powers abroad. It is time India became a showcase of technology with mind boggling structures powered by renewable energy power plants run and owned at the local level. It is time to think differenting design and execution.

Think Green. Think Technology. Think Auroville. Just look South to Puducherry. Auroville is not only a self sufficient community but follows a no-waste community with people living in peace constantly innovating and inventing. For example, their water recycling system, where they dont waste a drop of water is something that can be copied or replicated and needs to be adopted nationwide. Here, politicians dont interfere and are easily approachable. You dont hear of strikes and power plays in Puducherry. It is Bengalurus consumerism model but Aurovilles sustainable designs that is the way forward. As techies, we need to learn the new way.

Imagine what an incredible India we could create if we followed this example. Nothing is free and we would require discipline. The fact Auroville has been successful in India shows it is possible. We would not only prove to be a model country for the world to follow but also help stop global warming substantially. That is when India would become a real leader like we were 5,000 years ago. It is our time again. (The author is the founder-moderator of the IndianWISE e-group)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Soul's brotherhood and the death of egoism

Srikant has left a new comment on your post "It was the effect of yoga of Sri Aurobindo that fa...":

The communistic principle of society is intrinsically as superior to the individualistic as is brotherhood to jealousy and mutual slaughter; but all the practical schemes of Socialism invented in Europe are a yoke, a tyranny and a prison.

If communism ever re-establishes itself successfully upon earth, it must be on a foundation of soul's brotherhood and the death of egoism. A forced association and a mechanical comradeship would end in a world-wide fiasco.- Sri Aurobindo ( SABCL 17, p.117)

Democracy was the protest of the human soul against the allied despotisms of autocrat, priest and noble; Socialism is the protest of the human soul against the despotism of a plutocratic democracy; Anarchism is likely to be the protest of the human soul against the tyranny of a bureaucratic Socialism. A turbulent and eager march from illusion to illusion and from failure to failure is the image of European progress. (SABCL-17, Page-119)

Democracy in Europe is the rule of the Cabinet minister, the corrupt deputy or the self-seeking capitalist masqued by the occasional sovereignty of a wavering populace. Socialism in Europe is likely to be the rule of the official and policeman masqued by the theoretic sovereignty of an abstract State. It is chimerical to enquire which is the better system; it would be difficult to decide which is the worse.- Sri Aurobindo (SABCL 17, P.120) Posted by Srikant to Marketime at 11:57 PM, September 11, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hospitality, not hostility

A cosmopolitan anthropology via The Memory Bank by keith on 9/10/09
Emergent world society is the new human universal – not an idea, but the fact of our shared occupation of the planet crying out for new principles of association. I wish to explore the possible contribution of anthropology to such a project. If the academic discipline as presently constituted would find it hard to address this task, perhaps we need to look elsewhere for a suitable intellectual strategy.

Immanuel Kant published Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view in 1798. The book was based on lectures he had given at the university since 1772-3. Kant’s aim was to attract the general public to an independent discipline whose name he more than anyone contributed to academic life. Remarkably, histories of anthropology have rarely mentioned this work, perhaps because the discipline has evolved so far away from Kant’s original premises. But it would pay us to take his Anthropology seriously, if only for its resonance with our own times.

Shortly before, Kant wrote Perpetual peace: a philosophical sketch. The last quarter of the eighteenth century saw its own share of ‘globalization’ — the American and French revolutions, the rise of British industry and the international movement to abolish slavery. Kant knew that coalitions of states were gearing up for war, yet he responded to this sense of the world coming closer together by proposing how humanity might form society as world citizens beyond the boundaries of states. He held that ‘cosmopolitan right’, the basic right of all world citizens, should rest on conditions of universal hospitality, that is, on the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else’s territory. In other words, we should be free to go wherever we like in the world, since it belongs to all of us equally. His confident sense of an emergent world order, written over 200 years ago, can now be seen as the high point of the liberal revolution, before it was overwhelmed by its twin offspring, industrial capitalism and the nation-state. The task of building a global civil society for the twenty-first century, even a world state, is an urgent one and anthropological visions should play their part in that.

This is the context for my reading of Kant’s Anthropology. He elsewhere summarized ‘philosophy in the cosmopolitan sense of the word’ as four questions:
What can I know?
What should I do?
What may I hope for?
What is a human being?
The first question is answered in metaphysics, the second in morals, the third in religion and the fourth in anthropology.

But the first three questions ‘relate to anthropology’, he said, and might be subsumed under it. Kant conceived of anthropology as an empirical discipline, but also as a means of moral and cultural improvement. It was thus both an investigation into human nature and, more especially, into how to modify it, as a way of providing his students with practical guidance and knowledge of the world. He intended his lectures to be ‘popular’ and of value in later life. Above all, the Anthropology was to contribute to the progressive political task of uniting world citizens by identifying the source of their ‘cosmopolitan bonds’. The book thus moves between mundane illustrations and Kant’s most sublime vision, using anecdotes close to home as a bridge to horizon thinking.

If for Kant the two divisions of anthropology were physiological and pragmatic, he preferred to concentrate on the latter — ‘what the human being as a free actor can and should make of himself’. This is based primarily on observation, but it also involves the construction of moral rules. The book has two parts, the first and longer being on empirical psychology and divided into sections on cognition, aesthetics and ethics. Part 2 is concerned with the character of human beings at every level from the individual to the species, seen from both the inside and the outside. Anthropology is the practical arm of moral philosophy. It does not explain the metaphysics of morals which are categorical and transcendent; but it is indispensable to any interaction involving human agents. It is thus ‘pragmatic’ in a number of senses: it is ‘everything that pertains to the practical’, popular (as opposed to academic) and moral in that it is concerned with what people should do, with their motives for action.

In his Preface, Kant acknowledges that anthropological science has some way to go methodologically. People act self-consciously when they are being observed and it is often hard to distinguish between self-conscious action and habit. For this reason, he recommends as aids ‘world history, biographies and even plays and novels’. The latter, while being admittedly inventions, are often based on close observation of real behaviour and add to our knowledge of human beings. He thought that the main value of his book lay in its systematic organization, so that readers could incorporate their experience into it and develop new themes appropriate to their own lives. Historians and philosophers are divided between those who find the book marginal to Kant’s thought and those for whom it is just muddled and banal. And the anthropologists have ignored it entirely. This was a mistake. [...]

Anthropology does not sit well with the modern university. We retain the will to range freely across disciplinary boundaries; the humanism and democracy entailed in our methods contradict the bureaucratic imperatives of corporate privatization at every turn. Anthropology has always been an anti-discipline, a holding company for idiosyncratic individuals to do what they like and call it ‘anthropology’. [...]

The rapid development of global communications today contains within its movement a far-reaching transformation of world society. ‘Anthropology’ in some form is one of the intellectual traditions best suited to make sense of it. The academic seclusion of the discipline, its passive acquiescence to bureaucracy, is the chief obstacle preventing us from grasping this historical opportunity. We cling to our revolutionary commitment to joining the people, but have forgotten what it was for or what else is needed, if we are to succeed in helping to build a universal society. The internet is a wonderful chance to open up the flow of knowledge and information. Rather than obsessing over how we can control access to what we write, which means cutting off the mass of humanity almost completely from our efforts, we need to figure out new interactive forms of engagement that span the globe and to make the results of our work available to everyone. Ever since the internet went public and the World Wide Web was invented, I have made online self-publishing and interaction the core of my anthropological practice. And recently I have stumbled into what may turn out to be the most powerful vehicle for this project yet: the
Open Anthropology Cooperative.

It matters less that an academic guild should retain its monopoly of access to knowledge than that ‘anthropology’ should be taken up by a broad intellectual coalition for whom the realization of a new human universal – a world society fit for humanity as a whole — is a matter of urgent personal concern. Paper presented at the inaugural conference of the Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies, University of St. Andrews, ‘A cosmopolitan anthropology?’, 15-16th September 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sri Aurobindo was categorical that Hindu nationalism had no place in present-day India

Hindu-Muslim Unity in Sri Aurobindo's Light by Dr. Mangesh Nadkarni
from A critique of the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs by Raman Reddy

Although Sri Aurobindo was primarily a mystic and a yogi with a global vision and is one of the greatest names in the spiritual annals of humanity, he came from a Hindu stock, and for that reason alone some people have looked upon him as the representative of the Hindu view. But to limit Sri Aurobindo to Hinduism is like characterising modern science and technology as purely Christian, since by and large they originated in the Christian countries. Besides, there have been some mischievous attempts in recent years to portray Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo as primarily Hindu nationalists, or champions of militant Hinduism. This is a travesty of truth.

As for Hindu nationalism, Sri Aurobindo held that it was an anachronistic notion in the 20th century, and if these two great men were ‘militant’ about anything, it was about spirituality as the universal religion of man, and not about any sectarian religion. In fact, Sri Aurobindo held that the time for religions was over, whatever their need and justification at a certain stage in human history. He believed that mankind was entering the age of universal spirituality. He has categorically declared that his Ashram and his teachings were not based on Hindu religion or culture or any religion or nationality, but on the Truth of the Divine which is the spiritual ideal behind all religions and on the truth of the supramental consciousness which is not known to any religion. [...]

Strange indeed are the measures and criteria some of the leaders of public opinion in our country have evolved by which a person’s genuineness as a secularist is to be judged. He who hopes to be counted among the accredited secularists must hold Hindus and Muslims equally guilty in every instance of communal disturbance; he should hold Hinduism and Islam equal in everything, except that he is free to damn Hindu culture and Hindu scriptures, but he should say nothing critical about Islam either in India or anywhere else in the world. Finally, a secularist must make fun of all religions. [...]

The spirituality of which Sri Aurobindo has been the most articulate spokesman in our time respects the freedom of the human soul, because it is fulfilled by freedom; and the deepest meaning of freedom is the power to expand and grow towards perfection by the law of one’s own nature. True spirituality gives freedom to philosophy and science, to man’s seeking for political and social perfection and to all his other powers and terrestrial aspirations. Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo exemplify best the spirit of liberalism which has created out of the medieval Hinduism a vibrant, modern Hinduism, more than willing to reaffirm what is basic to the Hindu faith - respect for all religions. [...]

Our attempts should be to strengthen the hands of the liberal elements and not to pamper to the whims of the extremists for winning their votes. Nevertheless, it is not realism to ignore this growing hold of fundamentalism on Islam in India even today. The politicization of Islam has added fuel to the fire of fundamentalism.

Sri Aurobindo had a clear recognition of these singular difficulties and therefore he recognised that co-existence with a community such as Islam required a federal spirit, even wider than that which has made India the most tolerant country in the world to other religious faiths and modes of worship. There will have to be such a genuine spirit of federalism as would convince Muslims that it is not the goal of Hinduism either to destroy Islam or to absorb it within Hinduism. This would necessitate evolving a formula of national unity by expanding the old idea of federalism. [...]

On several occasions in India we have failed to make a distinction between the moral and political blackmailing tactics of a few hooligans and the genuine aspirations for social and economic justice of the silent majority in our Muslim population. The vote arithmetic on which our democracy is based has even encouraged these hooligans. Giving in to the blackmailing tactics of such groups is dangerous to both the communities. A sentimental approach or one which is overtly moralistic only adds fuel to this conflict situation. A firm and impartial handling of conflicts arising out of this mindset is as important for our political health and stability as safeguarding the identity of the minority religions. [...]

In my discussion here I have deliberately avoided mentioning the current conflict between the ideologies of the so-called secularists and the so-called champions of Hindu nationalism. In my view these so-called secularists are motivated by genuine humanitarian considerations but in practice they seem to be perpetuating a mix of the political and sentimental approaches which have so far proved disastrous. From political platforms we preach that religion should be kept out of politics, but how do we keep religion out of politics as long as we can not eschew the temptation of depending on religious vote-banks? That is the surest way of politicising religion and politicising religion is the easiest way of getting caught in the vicious grip of fundamentalism, and fundamentalism is a game at which many can play; we should not look surprised when we find that Hindus can be made to play it as zealously as any other religious group in the country.

Regarding the ideology of the so-called champions of Hindu nationalism, it is possible to infer what Sri Aurobindo’s reactions to their ideology would have been from the comments he made a long time ago (Karmayogin, Nov.6, 1909) on the ideology of a group called the Hindu Sabha, which was started in Bengal in the first decade of this century. Sri Aurobindo said in his article that if this Hindu Sabha stood for a new spiritual impulse based on Vedanta, the essential oneness of man, the lofty ideals of brotherhood, freedom, equality, and a recognition of the great mission and mighty future of the Hindu spiritual ideals and disciplines and of the Indian race, then it would be serving a great objective.

If, on the other hand, it is inspired by motives of rivalry against the Mohammedan intransigence and by a desire to put the mass and force of a united Hinduism against the intensity of Muslim self-assertion, then it has to be regarded a retrogressive movement and must be rejected. Sri Aurobindo was categorical that Hindu nationalism had probably a meaning in the times of Shivaji and Ramdas, probably it was both possible and necessary at that time, but in present-day India such an ideology had no place. Under modern conditions, there was room only for an Indian nationalism.[12]

What lessons can we then draw from this analysis of the problem of Hindu-Muslim unity in Sri Aurobindo’s light?

a) Hindu-Muslim unity can not be achieved through political cleverness, or by flattering the Muslims. It can be achieved only by cleansing our hearts of prejudices and our minds of misunderstandings.

b) The Hindu must extend to the Muslim brother the love of the patriot realising that Mother India has given him too a permanent place in her bosom. Nothing should be done which would threaten the identity of the various religious minorities of India.

c) The temptation of exploiting the Muslim community purely as a vote-bank must be given up. The real economic, social and educational interests of this community should be addressed so that the community does not feel marginalised.

d) The problems created by religious fundamentalism should not be papered over; we should learn to make a clear distinction between the real interest of a community and the attempts it can make to exploit its minority status. Thuggery and hooliganism must be severely dealt with, no matter in what community it is found. The liberal elements within Islam should be encouraged.

e) It should be remembered that by weakness and cowardice one can never conciliate Islam. Hinduism should be more dynamic and world-affirming and revive its commitment to the ideal of making our terrestrial life perfect. More clearly and decisively than ever before, Hinduism should rise above mere religiosity and reveal its true nature as a spiritual culture; only then will it be able to fulfil its historic mission of showing to the world how to fuse spiritually with other religions on a vast scale.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sri Aurobindo kept a close watch on all that was happening in the world and in India

Mirror of Tomorrow Recent Articles
The plight of Britain’s ancient trees—by Patrick Barkham
The Lost World
India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part O
Into the Deeps of my Blue
The Story of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part N
Sanatana Dharma: XI—the Brahmin by the Mother
Poetry Time: 1 August 2009—Sri Aurobindo’s Is this the end
Cripps’s Mission: an Analysis—by Divakar and Sucharu
The Mother’s role in the 1971 War—by Kittu Reddy
22 July 2009 Solar Eclipse at Auroville—Photographs by Paulette
Two Poems by RY Deshpande
New Lamps for Old IX—by Sri Aurobindo
India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part K
Sanatana Dharma: X—Chaturvarņa in the Karmayogin
Recent Comments
Re: India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part N by Tusar N. Mohapatra
Re: The Mother’s role in the 1971 War—by Kittu Reddy by Tusar N. Mohapatra
Re: The Mother’s role in the 1971 War—by Kittu Reddy by Tusar N. Mohapatra
Re: India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part N by Vikas
Re: India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part N by Vikas
Re: The Mother’s role in the 1971 War—by Kittu Reddy by ned
Re: India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part O by Tusar N. Mohapatra
Re: The Mother’s role in the 1971 War—by Kittu Reddy by Tusar N. Mohapatra
Re: India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part F by Srikanth
Re: The Mother’s role in the 1971 War—by Kittu Reddy by Srikanth
Month Archive August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009
Categories Photos Year Archive 2009 2008

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pursuit of justice can be much enhanced by open and well-aimed public discussion

Amartya Sen's story of justice
Times of India - 26 July 2009 Rashmee Roshan Lall - ‎In an exclusive interview with The Times of India, the Nobel laureate speaks about his most ambitious book yet.

Justice is a complex idea (I was not surprised that it took me 496 pages to discuss it), but it is very important to understand that justice has much to do with everyone being treated fairly. Even though that connection has been well discussed by the leading political philosopher of our time, John Rawls, I have argued that he neglects a couple of important connections. One neglect is the central recognition that a theory of justice has to be deeply concerned with systematic assessment of how to reduce injustice in the world, rather than only with the identification of what a hypothetical "perfectly just society" would look like. There may be no agreement on the shape of perfect justice (and also perfect justice will hardly be achievable even if people did agree about what would be immaculately just), but we can still have reasoned agreement on many removable cases of manifest injustice, for example, slavery, or subjugation of women, or widespread hunger and deprivation, or the lack of schooling of children, or absence of available and affordable health care. Second, analysis of justice has to pay attention to the lives that people are actually able to lead, rather than exclusively concentrating only on the nature of "just institutions". In India, as anywhere else, we have to concentrate on removing injustices that are identifiable and that can be remedied.

Is justice essential for democracy to flourish?

One of the main arguments of the book is the role of open public discussion for our understanding of the demands of justice, and particularly of the removal of injustice. Indeed, democracy can be seen as "government by discussion" (an approach made famous by John Stuart Mill), and the pursuit of justice can be much enhanced by good democratic practice - not just well-fought elections but also open and well-aimed public discussion, with a free and vigorous media. In an earlier book, I discussed a remark of a very poor and nearly illiterate peasant, who lived in a village close to Santiniketan (where I come from). "It is not difficult to silence us," he said, "but this is not because we cannot speak." In that quiet confidence there are reasons of hope for the future of justice and democracy in India.

Seek justice, only if you deserve it Wendy Doniger Times of India - 26 July 2009

As Amartya Sen discusses the idea of justice in his new book, it's interesting to note that justice, like just about everything else in ancient India, has been a much debated topic since time immemorial (a point that Amartya Sen made very well in an earlier book, The Argumentative Indian). Dharma can often best be translated as 'justice,' though dharma also means law, rightness (as opposed to wrongness), religious ethics, and simply the way things ought to be or even the way things truly are. The authors of the many texts about dharma always cited, with respect, the opinions of several other authors on any particular topic, before putting forth their own views as the best.

The great epic, the Mahabharata, which is often called a dharma-shastra, constantly contests dharma. Time and again when a character finds that every available moral choice is the wrong one choice, or when one of the heroes does something wrong, he will mutter, or be told, "Dharma is subtle (sukshma)," that is, thin and slippery as a fine silk sari, elusive as a will o' the wisp, internally inconsistent as well as disguised, hidden, masked. People try again and again to do the right thing, and fail and fail, until they no longer know what the right thing is. As one of the early dharma texts put it, "Right and wrong (dharma and adharma) do not go about saying, 'Here we are'; nor do gods or ancestors say, 'This is right, that is wrong'." The Mahabharata deconstructs dharma, exposing the inevitable chaos of the moral life. [...]

This is a brilliant story about the subtlety of justice, the need for it to be constantly challenged, re-examined and re-understood in every age. The writer teaches Sanskrit and the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and has published translations of the Rig Veda and the Laws of Manu. Her latest book, 'The Hindus: An Alternative History', was published earlier this year

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kittu Reddy’s book A Vision of United India is a must-read

A Vision of United India: A Review
By Anurag Banerjee

On 15 August 1947 Sri Aurobindo had given a message to commemorate the independence of India in which he had spoken of his five dreams. What follows is a significant passage from his message:
“But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India’s internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Let us hope that that may come about naturally, by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way unity may finally come about under whatever form—the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.”

In his message Sri Aurobindo had spoken of his grand vision—the vision of a unified India which means India and Pakistan would exist as one single nation. This vision is echoed in Prof. Kittu Reddy’s book A Vision of United India: Problems and Solutions. Prof. Reddy is an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram since 1941. An intellectual par excellence and scholar of the highest rank, he combines in himself the qualities of a teacher and a motivator. He has been associated with the Indian Army since 1987 and has conducted workshops dealing with motivation, leadership and Indian nation with them. Those who know him closely would never fail to notice that he is one of those rare beings who have combined the paths of Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga which has, in turn, led to his progress as a sadhak of the Integral Yoga. Therefore when he writes, words that flow down from his pen finds its source in the higher levels of consciousness which explains the root of his profound insight.
A Vision of United India is divided into two sections: Problems and Solutions. In the first part of the first section, Prof. Reddy has discussed the political history of ancient and medieval India and also evaluated the success and failure to establish a sound political unity in the country. He has spoken of the cultural and spiritual unity that prevailed in ancient India but rightly remarks that those could never be ‘a sufficient basis for a vigorous national life’; in order to achieve so, a political unification was required. However this unification was never achieved. According to his observation: ‘But each time an attempt to find such a solution was made, a solution that might securely have evolved and found its true means and form and basis, it did not last. The difficulties were great, the conditions were not ripe, and there was instead at attempt to establish a single administrative empire.’ (p. 18) And he remarks: ‘One might even say that the guardians of India’s destiny wisely compelled it to fail so that her inner spirit might not perish and her soul barter for an engine of temporary security, the deep sources of its life.’ (Ibid.) He goes on to explain the advent of the Sultanates and Islamic thought discussing the traits of the Muslim Rule followed by a brief history of Islam and the fundamental concepts of Hinduism accompanied by its tenets and consequences. After discussing the consequences of Islamic invasion of India he gives an overview of India under the British Rule till 1947.

The second half of the first section comprises of a significant and meticulous discussion and evaluation of the political scenario of India from the post-partition era to the present age where the author speaks of the Kashmir problem and the other troubles India had to face from Pakistan. A detailed discussion of the Bangladesh War is followed by a write-up on the Military Rule in Pakistan which contains an informative analysis of the working of the dictators who ruled Pakistan as Presidents. In the chapter The Present Situation of Pakistan, the author makes a serious observation (p. 201): ‘A sinking Pakistan will insist on sinking India too.’ And he explains that this might happen since ‘proxy-war’ is a very cost-effective strategy for Pakistan as it consumes a small portion of its defence expenditure whereas it inflicts an excessively high cost on India. However, he says that in this process Pakistan would ultimately disintegrate from within.
The second section of the book (Solutions) puts forward the reasons leading to the prospective eradication of the division between India and Pakistan which is based on Prof. Reddy’s detailed study of Political Science under the light of Sri Aurobindo. After analyzing the obstructions to unite India and Pakistan, he has focused on the points that may help in establishing the unity between the two countries. He cites the instances of the unification of Germany and Vietnam and adds that the unification of India and Pakistan can be an attainable reality. This section is particularly important as it include thought-provoking chapters like Factors Leading to Unity in the Subcontinent and The Hindu-Muslim Unity where he speaks of the various measures that should be adopted by the Government of India to materialize the unification of India and Pakistan. He suggests that the partition should not be accepted as final by the Indian Government and a policy decision needs to be taken for the annulment of the partition. He states the following steps (p. 263):
· ‘Increase people to people contact in a big way in every field of activity…
· Increase economic cooperation between the two governments if possible and between the people of the two nations even if the Government of Pakistan does not cooperate…
· Take the strongest steps to curb terrorism in any form; give the Army a free hand in their operations against the terrorists. Ensure that political interference is completely stopped.
· Take steps to create a climate of understanding and goodwill between all the religions within India itself. This is an important factor and needs to be pursued vigorously.’

At the same time he proposes certain steps to be taken towards Pakistan which are as follows:
· Weakening the military of Pakistan by supporting democracy in the country. Prof. Reddy adds that one can envisage the unification of the armies of the two nations at a later stage.
· Developing and nurturing the constituencies in Pakistan whose livelihood and prosperity depends on good relations with India for the purpose of developing trade relations.
· Enable the secular minded people of Pakistan to come closer to India thus enabling the exchange of educational and cultural activities.
· Strengthening India’s relation with the United States, Russia and China as Islamic fundamentalism can be a threat to the stability of their society as well.

To bring about the much-desired unity among the Hindus and the Muslims, Prof. Reddy suggests that the cultural leaders of both Hinduism and Islam will have to bring forward ‘the deeper Indian ethos’ that is ‘intrinsically tolerant of all religions.’ In his own words (p. 313): ‘This ethos will give all minorities their civic dues but will not keep pampering them out of fear of losing their votes. And it will insist on a common civil code as indispensable to a genuine secularism, a code for all communities which will override whenever necessary in the interests of the whole country, the code peculiar to each community. That ethos will also do away with the current custom of special reservation of seats in the parliament on a communal or else caste basis. No communities or castes should be recognized. All citizens will be Indians and they will be members of parliament by popular election according to their merit. Equal opportunities will be given to all elements of the nation to progress and share in the guidance of the country.’ Another suggestion Prof. Reddy makes is that it is essential to re-interpret Islam and all other religions ‘in their true historical perspective.’ These steps could prepare the platform for promotion from Religion to Spirituality as it is the only way of overcoming the religious division.
This book is also significant as it includes certain illuminating passages from Sri Aurobindo’s writings where Sri Aurobindo has discussed the various means by which the much-desired Hindu-Muslim unity can be achieved. These passages are particularly important as it reveals how much concerned Sri Aurobindo was to bring about the said unity. In the much-publicized biography of Sri Aurobindo (The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs), Sri Aurobindo has been accused of being responsible for the disunity among Hindus and Muslims and partition of India as well and there are many who believes in this aforesaid nonsense. This masterpiece from the pen of Prof. Reddy would certainly shut the mouths of those who propagate against Sri Aurobindo of being a Hindu fundamentalist.
Prof. Reddy is a visionary who dreams of the unification of India and Pakistan and in this monumental work of his, he has explicitly discussed how the vision could be materialized. This book serves as a guideline which shows us the ways to be taken to eradicate a historical blunder called ‘Partition’ whose decision was taken by a handful of men (who were hailed as leaders) and its consequences were suffered by millions. It also led to the creation of an environment of non-stop tension between the two nations which still prevails in a glorified form. This book is special because it comes from the pen of a spiritual person with an astounding political consciousness. This book is a must-read for all those who love India truly.