Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Secularism, Hinduism, and Gita

Livemint ‎- Selective grandstanding by Left-liberal intellectuals is hurting pluralism and balkanizing India.
Secularism has come to mean government showing favour to specific religious groups and those groups in turn voting to keep the political party showering such favours in office. This is nothing but bribery, and those who raise their voice against such bribery are immediately deemed “communal” by the keepers of the “secular” flame. As elections come closer, journalists, historians and activists of the Nehruvian ilk are going to town warning Indians about “secularism” being in danger should “communal” forces win.

Indian voters should be on guard—they should not allow themselves to be misled by hypocritical intellectuals and journalists who are in cahoots with the “secular” politicians. These politicians should have been held accountable for their perversion of secularism by intellectuals and journalists in the first place.
India needs a government that works for the development and security of all citizens without any regard to religious identity, and enunciates laws that are the same for all individuals—only such a government would be worthy of being called secular.
Rajeev Mantri is co-founder of the India Enterprise Council.

Save Hinduism from its saviours Kiran Nagarkar, Mar 24, 2014
Times of India ‎- Aleph Book Company recently caved in to the threats of a group of Hindu fanatics, abandoned one of their most prestigious authors — Wendy ...
It would be harmful to India's polity and to the quality of our intellectual life if our apathy does not permit us to see the writing on the wall. Many commentators have remarked that even BJP should beware Modi. He's not merely a polarising entity; he likes to have his way at any cost. All of us must perforce take a stand now and make the new government realise, never mind of which hue it is, that we will resist censorship as much as any autocratic moves.
The writer is a novelist and playwright. 

“And yet one mustn’t discount just how inspiring its message has been to so many. These days perhaps the most striking is Gandhi himself. Whatever one’s criticisms of Gandhi, one cannot exactly accuse him of being a warmonger.”
Gandhi surely was inspired by the message of duty in the Gīta. Indeed he vigorously defended the Indian caste system against attacks by Dr Ambedkar (amongst others). My Dalit Buddhist friends frequently retell the story of how Gandhi threatened to go on one of his famous hunger strike to stop Ambedkar trying to outlaw caste. No love lost for Gandhiji in that quarter!
It would seem that the Gīta was uppermost in the minds of India’s intellectuals at the time of Independence. But in terms of it’s influence before then I don’t think you’ve made your case here. How much of that I wonder was due to it’s popularity amongst Western Intellectuals like Schopenhauer?
Still, it is an interesting approach to take a text and it’s commentaries down to the modern era as the basis for a discussion of Indian philosophy. Commentaries often reflect more on the commentator than the text. And shifting ideas expressed about the same text would illustrate that dynamic well. Seeing how each new system reinterprets a text to suit its own agenda would be instructive. And it’s true of so many texts.
However you also say “Too often, Indian epistemology and metaphysics are seen as purely abstract activities with little relation to one’s ethical conduct or even one’s ultimate liberation…”
And here’s an interesting quandary. Because if we admit that practical matters are important then we find imperatives to take a stand on ethical matters. In which case I could neither teach, nor spend any significant time studying, the morality of the Gīta because to me it is mistaken in a disastrous way. The ideas epitomised in this text seem to me to have been detrimental to Indian society in so many ways. Unless one agrees with the morality outlined in the text, the only way to treat it is at arms length. So it’s no wonder it’s seen as abstract.

It’s interesting to consider, with Robert Minor in his edited volume, Modern Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita (1986), that the Gītā played a role in the struggle for Indian independence, as nationalist leaders cited the “exhortation to action” from Kṛṣṇa in their quest for swarāj. Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical Society in 1907, along with B.G. Tilak (and perhaps several others) was instrumental in the founding the All-India Home Rule League in 1915-1916 and in 1917 was elected president of the Indian National Congress. While the Indian nationalists did not agree in their interpretations of the Gītā, what united them was their belief that the text could be cited to counter those Westerners and colonialists who criticized Hinduism as essentially “fatalistic, passive, lacking in concern for social ethics, otherworldly, idolatrous, etc.,” accusations that contained a measure of truth, at least according to Gandhi. It does seem that the karma yoga ideal, at least in some quarters, assumes an unprecedented prominence in this period, only to recede once again with Indian independence.

Minor’s collection helps us appreciate the possible, even motley ethical (and to some extent spiritual) interpretations of the text. At one end of this spectrum we find the strongly allegorical and “spiritualized” approaches of Theosophists like Subba Row and William Q. Judge, an interpretation that clearly influenced Gandhi. To be sure, Gandhi worked out his own unique methodological or hermeneutic principles for interpreting the Gītā and other religious texts (involving, for instance, the ‘primacy of experience,’ acknowledgement of the ‘historical’ character of religious scriptures, and rejections of propositions clearly contrary to cultivated reason and the ‘first principles of morality’). Gandhi came to view the Mahābhārata itself as an “anti-war” epic “because it described the utter futility of a pyrrhic victory in which both victors and vanquished lose their all” (J.T.F. Jordens). Gandhi’s use of the text places stress on duty largely as svadharma, and then alongside the karma yoga ideal of selfless social service, on the values we’ve come to associate with virtue ethics, like self-control, non-attachment, and sophrosyne (the ideal consisting of steadfastness in wisdom and firmness in judgment).
Finally, I would urge all those not acquainted with B.K. Matilal’s writings on the Gīta to see the essays collected in the volume of his work on “ethics and epics” edited by Jonardon Ganeri. [...]

Evil and the Philosophy of Retribution: Modern Commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita By Sanjay Palshikar Routledge India, 2013
Evil and the Philosophy of Retribution compares the responses of three modern Indian commentators on the Bhagavad-Gita — Aurobindo Ghose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi. The book reveals that some of the central themes in the Bhagavad-Gita were transformed by these intellectuals into categories of modern socio-political thought by reclaiming them from pre-modern debates on ritual and renunciation.

Stalked by ourselves? TOI Santosh Desai 23 March 2014
Does more customisation on the internet equal less room for imagination? Stalking Ourselves- TOI http://t.co/b1vsDRbGXK
Being catered to slavishly increases choice but reduces imagination. It also polarises the world as early prejudices harden into a crystallised sense of self which then gets repeatedly validated as a result of an intelligent media system that refuses to challenge us. We are sold images of ourselves and given membership to clubs that are like-minded. Everywhere we go virtually, we get reinforcement for who we are and a seeming array of choices created specifically for us with of the foreknowledge of what we like.
When the individual had to be rescued from under the crushing weight of the collective, then the deification of individual desire made a lot of sense. But when the world is dominated by the individual, the question of what goes into the making of an individual becomes critical.
Concrete Operations Thought, Graven Images, and Islamic Backwardness 6 Feb 2006 by Gagdad Bob In fact, thinkers such as Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo have outlined developmental stages beyond formal operations, which was Paiaget's final stage of development. In the Islamic world, there is no room whatsoever for these higher ...
Mind Parasites, Intellectual Doctators, and The Life Divine in a ... 25 Jan 2006 by Gagdad Bob There is, of course, the counterexample of Sri Aurobindo, but he appears a lone voice crying in the wilderness these days. As a Buddhist who also happens to be a Straussian neo-conservative, I've been feeling pretty lonely and in fact ...
Questionables to Your Unanswerables 23 Jan 2006 by Gagdad Bob With regard to the East, this has been most ably and exhaustively enunciated by Sri Aurobindo, who had the benefit of a Cambridge education and integrated Vedanta with the modern world. In the West, virtually the identical task was ...
Weakness, Vanity, and Cruelty: A Glimpse into the Moral Dementia ... 3 Jan 2006 by Gagdad Bob - References Interestingly, this is exactly the conclusion drawn by the great Indian philosopher and sage Sri Aurobindo, in his celebrated Essays on the Gita. Aurobindo writes that the Gita "does not preach indifference to good and evil for the ... One Cosmos 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Secularism rejects any form of religious faith and worship

Definition of Secularism
Secularism is defined in Webster's Dictionary as: “A system of doctrines and practices that rejects any form of religious faith and worship” or "the belief that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the function of the State, especially into public education.” The Oxford English Dictionary states that secularism is the doctrine in which morality should be based solely with regard to the well being of mankind in the present life to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future State.
George Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh were two leading secularists and atheists of England in the 19th century, from whom we have obtained the word “secularism”. According to Holyoake, secularism maintains the sufficiency of secular reason for guidance in human duties. Secularism also includes the utilitarian rule that makes the good of others the law of duty.
Equal treatment of people of different religions or equal respect for all religions is not secularism, as it implies the affairs of the State must not be influenced by any religious or moral considerations at all. The State must adhere to the strict code of “rationality”, which means maximization of its utility, irrespective of moral or religious codes. [...]
Secularism makes adultery lawful if both the male and the female are consenting partners. Riba or interest on borrowed money is the basis of all financial transactions in secular economies, while the Koran forbids it. As for alcohol, all secular systems permit consumption of alcohol and make sale of it a lawful business. 
Secularism is based on keeping religion separate from all affairs of the life and hence, it rules by law and regulations other than Allah”s laws. Thus, secularism rejects Allah's rules without exception and prefers regulations other than Allah's and his Messengers. For Muslim societies, acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shariah, denial of divine guidance and rejection of Allah's injunctions.

David Hume And The Missing Shade Of Blue  By Massimo Pigliucci - Science 2.0 - Mar 17, 2014 
This semester I'm teaching a graduate level course on “Hume Then and Now,” which aims at exploring some of the original writings by David Hume, particularly the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and contemporary philosophical treatments of ...

Buddhism without Superstition: with Owen Flanagan, Julian Baggini, and Tim Lott - Patheos (blog) - Mar 17, 2014 
“Is it possible to take an ancient comprehensive philosophy like Buddhism, subtract the hocus pocus, and have a worthwhile philosophy for twenty-first-century scientifically informed secular thinkers?