- History is extremely important in the practice of religion of Judeo-Christian traditions—in fact in all the three Abrahamic traditions but Islam is not the topic of discussion in this book. Rajiv ji has coined the term “history-centric” to characterize the Judeo-Christian traditions. Why history is important in these traditions is because the transcendental God interferes in human history through a revelation—the receptivity of human beings to understand the import of the revelation is not a necessity for the revelation to happen. According to Christianity because of the sin committed by Adam and Eve, their progeny has been born with original sin. It was only through the intervention of God through his son that a path to humans to expiate their original sin was opened up. This historical event is of colossal importance for Christians, and hence of historicity in their tradition (it is quite evident from the fact that even their time in BC/AD is defined around the birth of Jesus Christ). On the other hand, in the dharmic traditions, what is important is “adhyatma vidya” or what Rajiv ji calls “embodied knowing” where what matters are the realization of the principles and knowledge claims of sages, saints and luminaries and not their individual history. If at all history comes into the picture, it has a peripheral and not central importance. ....
- He distinguishes “itihasa” from history and refutes the conflation of myth with “itihasa.” Myth in the western world is always identified with a sense of unreality of truth. “Itihasa” is not history and it is not myth is what is clearly explained in the chapter. Then what is “itihasa?” Itihasa is past narrative which does not operate on a strict dichotomy of true/false occurrence. Itihasa transcends and integrates this dichotomy bringing with it the perspectival involvement of the narrator. The fact that an incident has happened is never denied by itihasa but then it gives the narrator a platform of creativity to play with. Indians should contest the depiction of Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas as myths.
- The last two sections, “How Embodied Knowing Works” and “how History-centrism Works” further crystallize the distinctions between two distinct ways of approaching the divine. ....
- The first person experience is of crucial important in “adhyatma vidya” traditions. What is of central importance is to experientially know the truth claims of one’s guru. This emphasis is across the board in dhramic traditions as evidenced in the teachings of say Sri Aurobindo, Krishnamurti or the Buddha. The inner being is the living laboratory in which yogis, rishis and munis experiment and know their truths. On the other hand, in the history-centric traditions, faith is of immense importance. Besides there is an inherent separation between son of God and his adherents. Therefore one can follow him but he/she can neither become like him nor have experiences similar to him because he being son of God is exclusive and there cannot be anyone like him (as in the case of Christianity)....
- Because of the characteristics of “History-centric” traditions and “Adhyatma Vidya” traditions as mentioned in (4) above, the latter was able to develop a sophisticated inner science because a) there wasn’t any dogma associated with replicating and verifying the results of the spiritual beings, and b) the spiritual figures themselves encouraged and invited his/her followers to verify and no the truths of their contentions first hand. Given that there is an openness and freedom to pursue the inner knowledge, various dharmic traditions developed many and inter-related techniques of purifying and perfecting the mind—this is primarily because the “adhyatma vidya” traditions hold that it is only in a quiet, purified, and still mind that the knowledge of divine happens. Given the openness which is present in the dharmic traditions, it is compatible with the tenets of modern science (My comment: I know that Rajiv ji has mentioned this in one of his emails that much before the Sanskrit texts began to be studied and translated in eighteenth century and nineteenth century India and Europe, the Jesuits began this process in 1500s itself. Could India have impacted the renaissance in anyway or form is a good hypothesis to have—this thread needs to be explored. Could there have been a connection between the father of modern science Francis Bacon and India is another thread that should not be dismissed as a distant imagination—we must pursue this as a realm of possibility till proven otherwise. India’s decline and Europe’s rise have coincided and that India may have impacted the transition of Europe beyond the transfer of material wealth is something that needs to be explored in great detail. I think we need to also explore extensively the travelogues of traders visiting Vijayanagara Empire and other parts of India in the 1500s and 1600s).
God makes top-down history (history-centric religions)
Iti-hasa has connotations of "thus the narration" or "ITs story". The IT standing for Being, Spirit, Soul, a certain sacredness relation with the Cosmos, Ecology and Life, with the 'Principle' that upholds the human, coming to a vibration with the Dharma of each thing in creation- all the benefits and preservation to the human in evolution. You cannot speak of evolution without there being that Involution - an important point Rajiv has explained. The Hindu texts keep on asking "Who is it that is "Involved"?"
One has to walk humbly in the narration of the Iti-hasas, for they are indeed spellbinding;
one has to lose oneself in the narration as Rama explains to a fiery brother Lakshmana why for the sake of the welfare of everyone in his kingdom (he takes on the mantle to be its protector) he has to as an act of Dharma obey his father's
word implicitly: without any conflict of any kind.
(This is a Yoga being taught here together with the necessity of learning to "Honor thy Father and thy Mother")
One has to walk humbly through its great labyrinth to understand that in our giddiness to bestow words like 'Kubera' etc on anyone rich, how truly we dilute our thoughts and the name, not understanding that Kubera stands for one "who cares" and gives back bountifully. One has to sit with Rama and Sita and let the thoughts churn (the "Manthara") to understand the investment of sacredness in man and woman to preserve the Dharma of marriage. One must sit with Sitaji in her own gentle words in Chitrakuta as she urges Sri Rama to put his bows and arrows aside so as not to frighten the gentle animals when they come in their love. (Ah, but don't we have Disneyland to teach us the same these days and even better as Entertainment?)
Honestly, I wish every mother and father would spend some time with their children reading a passage here or there
with them, from these noble Iti-hasas. But then, the fathers and mothers would have needed that to be done by their own fathers and mothers and in their own times! ...."
On the substance of the post -
IMO, the methodology of science is completely separable from its historic roots. Yes, the subjects science considers interesting (i.e., that are funded for research, that researchers want to work on, etc.) are culture-specific. As a simple example, a vaccine for malaria is of far greater interest to Indian than to the US pharmaceutical companies.
We well know that not everything is scientific. E.g., there is the whole field of aesthetics, in the arts, music, dance, etc. These being non-scientific does not make them less valuable. So the inner experience does not lose value if we cannot demonstrate it to be scientific."
This "science = Eurocentrism" posture is the blindness of postcolonialists, because they have no clue of non-western paradigms of science. This is where Balagangadhara (whose work i respect) is misguided as he sees reason, science,
etc. as absent from dharma or antithetical to it.
BD takes the stand that: Order/Chaos are BOTH present and balanced in dharma (hence the samudra manthana motif on the cover) whereas Order must annihilate Chaos in Western thinking; rationality and direct inner experience are not
mutually contradictory in dharma because ordinary rationality is enhanced/expanded into what Sri Aurobindo refers to as the supramental state.
This notion that "mysticism vs rationality" are opposites was true of western mysticism, and BD explains in detail why dharmic mysticism differs from western mysticism.
Such common misrepresentations by Hindu experts of recent times have been turned into a weapon against dharma by people like Ken Wilber, who claim to supersede dharma because they depict it as "otherworldly, non-rational, not capable of advancement", etc... Many lofty otherworldly Indian experts have reinforced this and fed it."
Kundan shares his thoughts on difference between dharma and history-centric traditions in BD on the issue of authority:
I would like to add that there is some small degree of overlap between History and Iti-hasa. i.e the events and happenings of Rama life and his Dharmic Way of life itself is bench mark for one to follow. He has shown practically by his life the Dharmic Way. It is a practical demonstration of the eternal truth in play in space time. Therefore, the historical narrative has its role to play in a society.
However, it can be said that the principles of the story is more important than the story itself and therefore, it is immaterial whether the the story itself is true and false. This is also correct. But if the Historical context is undermined the lofty and grand narrative of Valmiki Rishi who is considered to
have seen the entire story of Ramayana in a deep state of meditation looses its appeal in the hearts of the people.
However multiple narratives to suit the dharma of people as propounded by various gurus/rishis has taken place over time. In fact these Iti-hasas of rishis/gurus is deeply connected to Sampradayas too. Therefore, Sampradayas have a historical connection to Guru Parampara and invalidating the historicity
will be invalidating the sampradayas itself at an operation level of the family.However, I acknowledge that the very purpose of this samprdaya is to Transcend Historicity itself
In fact the Rishis view is that *"Omkara's Expansion is Gayathri Mantra, the Gayathri Mantra's Expansion is Purushasooktam of Vedas and Purusha sooktams Expansion is Ramayana Iti-hasa. Out of this the latter is in the story of Omkara in space time realm. Therefore, Iti-hasa has past proceeding story component in it and HIs-story is Rama's Story or more deeply Om-kars Story"
Contrast all this to the fixation in some time -space which is present in Judeo-Christian traditions"
Should we allow character assassinations like Sita ji being the actual wife of Ravan or Hanuman ji having relationships with Sita mata. Do we need to include such versions of Ramayan in our text and/or books or we should preserve the essence of Ramayan and accept modifications without destroying the essence.
For instance, when I owned a company in Indonesia in the 1990s, I visited there several times a year and studied the way Hinduism was present. One of their major sites is called the Monkey Forest. Their narrative is that the monkeys in this forest are descendents of Hanuman's army. How did they end up there? The answer given is that on Hanuman's way from Himalayas to Lanka some pieces of the mountain fell into the Ocean and became some of the Indonesian islands, and
these monkeys arrived as a result. That's a local adaptation that works for them.
Another example: In Thailand, major Buddhist temples have a statue of Ravana outside the gate. The interpretation given is that after Ravana died, he repented for his bad deeds, and asked for another chance to do good. So in his next birth he came to serve Rama who was born as Buddha. That is why Ravana sits outside the door of Buddha to protect him. A bad guy became good in his next life. There is also a town called Ayodhya in Thailand which according to local folk lore is the place we know to be in India.
When I accompanied Swami Dayananda Saraswati to Cambodia for the Hindu-Buddhist summit, there was an evening performance of Ramayana specifically for the
delegation. It had many such local adaptations.
The entire Asia (and even in remote parts of India) there are many such local adaptations. I did not find anything disrespectful in them, at least not the ones I saw.
So each specific interpretation must be examined and evaluated for the bhava and motives involved. You should not assume that the stupid Hinduphobia of M.F. Hussain is present in all these adaptations. BD cites A.K. Ramanuja but none of
the points made in those quotes have even a remote disrespect. But if he wrote other things that were disrespectful, of course we should demolish those. "
Please note that the "mutual" clause is critical in mutual respect. Would I also respect Hitler, bin laden, ravana, etc? No, because they do not respect others who differ, hence they fail the "mutual" clause..."
Ramanth responds to Rajiv's comment on 'mutual respect'
I may respect your right to believe your faith, but know that it is false and that you are ignorant of the true way to salvation. Hence though I respect you and your choice of belief, I feel that it is wrong for me to allow you to go in the wrong path, hence I should try and reform you. Essentially, I can respect
your faith as a legitimate human attempt to commune with the divine, but still recognize it as leading to hell for not accepting Jesus, hence all attempts at saving you through conversion [with force, deception or otherwise] are ultimately noble, just like a teacher or parent must sometimes use force or small temptations, on an erring child, though the child is respected and loved.
The key point you must understand here is that in the Abrahamic religions God gives rules that apply to COLLECTIVE groups, not for individual moksha.
You are required to get others in line because its a group travel arrangement to heaven, hence the institutions serve as group travel agencies to secure a place for members. The membership concept runs deep. It is collective action on earth
Christian Zionists are a good example: The second coming of Christ is waiting to happen because humans have not collectively acted as per the Book of Revelation:
according to that part of the bible, Christ will return ONLY after people have restored the original Kingdom of David, which includes among other things restoring the Temple of David where today stands a mosque - not an ordinary
mosque but the place where Mohammed went to paradise. All this is at the center for the fight in the Middle East, hence Christian Zionists (v. powerful in USA) support for Israel. This is due to history-centrism.
... Its like someone polluting the city water supply becomes my legitimate problem as well, because it effects my safety.
The result of collective versus individual paths is immense. In dharma, I can respect the other who is doing whats bad karma when the consequences are only to HIM, not me. Christians and Jews claim the mandate to spread the "law" universally, hence they CANNOT respect non compliance - it would be like you respecting someone who is inflicting criminal damage on you.
I can respect someone's right to do bad karma as part of the freedom of choice given to everyone, even though I know its has consequences - to HIM alone.
Note the reciprocal role of the "mutual" clause in my term "mutual respect". It means the man who is poisoning the city water supply is not entitled to my respect because he is not reciprocating by respecting others' safety."
On Purva Paksha challenges... Being Different is a wakeup call to those who have honest, serious commitment to revive and renew methods of articulating dialogue in Reversing the gaze. In order to intelligently Reverse the Gaze it is important to understand in depth the Purva-Paksha Siddhanta techniques used within Indian philosophy.
However today we have a structural problem in learning this traditional Advaita argumentative methods used in their Purva Paksha-Siddhanta discussions with Nyaya-Vaisheshika-Shoonya vaadins. The teaching systems that exist today more
often rely on contemporary self interpretations or modern commentaries rather than detailed purva-uttara mimamsa, the word-to-word analysis based on Sri Adi Shankara, Nagarjuna, Kumarila Bhatta, Bhartrihari and other Bhashya's. Due to
time and other agenda's Bhashya's are barely covered in teaching. The relevance of these analysis and understanding is mandatory to know how within Indian thought the gaze was reversed followed by that we can reverse the gaze with
west. The Sampradaya does exist in few Ashramas today but in our current philosophical study mindset - commonly there is a rush to take a position of Advaitin or otherwise, without first a thorough comparative philosophical study of the six schools of Indian thought which provides structure to logic-reasoning-argumentation methods, which will come to bear fruits no matter which final position is accepted.
Some of the traditional true-to-the Indian thought philosophers even today say that each text takes 3-4 years of serious-rigorous-study to even gain a glimpse of depth involved in the great logical texts/philosophy drastantas. There is lack of commitment to fully teach or learn in detail, the fundamental (various) means of knowledge, the vision of each of the schools of thought or chosen text in a structured manner before taking on the road of particular school of
thought. There is rush of completing the text/training and claiming an 'I know it all' conclusive position. The detail argumentation between the traditional Philosophical Giants of six schools provides us an abundance of 'structure to
articulate one's position' rather than taking conclusive position without substantive backup or intelligent argumentation.
For example in Mandukya Upanishad, Sri Adi Shankaaracharya exposes opponent logic-fallacies as half-baked logic (Ardha-Kukkuti Nyaya) which is keeping half
the hen for future eggs and half for cooking. This is the fallacy exhibited by plagiarists of Indian thought..."