RMF Summary: Week of February 13 - 19, 2012

February 15
Integral Unity Vs. Synthetic Unity
Swami comments: Niall Ferguson in his latest book CIVILISATION: THE WEST AND THE REST
has identified six "killer apps" that he says can be attributed to the West's domination over the Rest over the last 500 years or so. They are

1) Competition, 2) Science 3) Democracy 4) Medicine 5) Consumerism and the 6)Work ethic

The work ethic is again attibuted only to the Protestant beliefs such as Calvinism. He goes at length to correlate China's economic resurgence to proliferation of Protestant sect in the land.

To me it appears too facile an explanation as our Varna ashrama and jati based trade pursuits infused much greater discipline. I personally felt the explanations of Vivekananda and Aurobindo appear more convincing"

Carpentier responds: China's economic resurgence is at least in part Confucean, not protestant.

February 15
A knowledge system represents a system of thought, and it can be utilized by anyone regardless of personal identity, nationality, race or religious affiliation.

For instance:
  • Nagarjuna, considered the second most important Buddhist thinker after Buddha himself, was a practicing brahmin, and yet he utilized Buddhist axioms to develop his thought.
  • Western notions of Cartesian time, reductionist metaphysics are the result of Biblical influences. Yet those from other traditions and identities have been using these to do engineering and other problem solving.
Likewise, my approach to dharma in BD has been as a knowledge system only, and not as identity for political purposes. By adopting this posture, I have entered spaces that are otherwise blocked to ideas seen as identity politics.
I offer this as food for thought: While some persons want to combine their knowledge system with their identity, and also combine their identity with their politics, it is equally legitimate for others to keep these domains separate. By keeping my allegiance to a dharmic knowledge system separate from my identity and politics, I have greater flexibility in how I play my cards in a given situation.
Many other faiths use this strategy and have far greater experience in doing so. For instance, Sufism is being propagated very successfully as a knowledge system (dealing with aesthetics, arts, 'generic' spirituality) independent of any religious identity. BD points out that secularism is similarly a kind of "Christianity's double", because it propagates certain categories that appear neutral but in fact they are sneaking "Christianity inside".
(There is a gang attacking me with misinformation. They claim to be championing against inculturation. So have I been doing this very intensely long before they even arrived at the scene. The difference is that I also see secularism as a form of Biblical inculturation, which is a deeper understanding then theirs is even today. This is why BD goes into great length to contrast between secularism and sapeksha-dharma and explains why the latter is a superior knowledge system.)
The so-called clash of civilizations is actually a clash of knowledge systems. Unfortunately, many people are fighting at the surface level seeing it as a fight of identities and political control of resources.
Bottom line: If you propagate dharmic civilization using the term "Indian Knowledge Systems", you will penetrate deeper and easier. So make a conscious choice between three kinds of discourse: (i) knowledge systems, (ii) identities, and (iii) politics. Each has its forums. Unsophisticated persons lack the nuance to choose when to separate them and when to combine them, and how to combine them.
JCP responds:
"Use of the phrase "Indian Knowledge Systems", even if it may smack of Indian identity, has the advantage that over the last 65 years, the Indian Christians & the Indian Muslims have developed a unique Indian identity, unlike those from other countries & they are less likely to cooperate with their external sponsors, specially the US evangelical denominations in their subterfuge of "acculturation" & "inculturation". 
       Another point perhaps, that time has come to define "Indian Secularism" as "respect for all faiths", because this variety of secularism as it has grown over the last 65 years in India is uniquely Indian & by no means is it a double of "Christianity" as it is preached & practiced by the Vatican. I happened to be a member of the Senate of the JNU, New Delhi for three years, about a decade ago, when a particular thesis by a Christian professor came up for discussion in the context of plagiarism, where in he seemed to attack "Indian Secularlism" as a hindrance to conversions through "inculturation". Of course, it was not this aspect which was discussed in the Senate, but I was able to preview the thesis only out of my curiosity. Incidentally, the hard core of Muslims in India, too regard "Indian Secularism" with disdain & call it a double of Hinduism."

Rajiv comment: I argue in BD for the adoption of the term sapeksha-dharma over secularism, be it Indian secularism or not. Right now Indian secularism is a "disputed territory" with forces pulling from the dharmic side and opposing Indian voices based in Abrahamic and western secularist models. Its not a good idea to concede to this space and simply give up our own categories.
While each of us can come up with war stories of victory like you have given, there are plenty of other developments in the opposite direction that are usually too discomforting to be remembered.  ..."

February 17
Times of India: "BEING DIFFERENT by being yourself"
http://educationtimes.com/educationTimes/CMSD/Expert-Eye/26/201202172012\ 0217113828946436451f/Being-different-by-being-yourself.html This was the result of an...

February 19
Is a return to Vedic lifestyle viable today?
Rajiv asks:
Those who adopt a posture of "lets return to the ideal past" must address the following problem.

The subcontinent's population has grown 100 fold since the classic vedic period. Today's combined South Asia is 1.5 billion whereas in early 1900s Gandhi and the Brits refer to a 300 million population. Thats 5 times growth in a century! If you go back to early British period the writings estimate a subcontinent of 200 million population. Historians have estimated 100 million for the early Mughal period. If you take this back in time, another 2000 years, its likely that the entire subcontinent had no more than 10 million to 20 million population.

Is the classical Vedic lifestyle scalable to support a population density that is 100 times larger? If so, how? We cannot skip this issue and assume without some rigor applied to establish the case. For instance we must inquire into the following with open minds:
  • Deforestation has resulted due to pop density explosion. In the Vedic era the subcontinent was covered with forests. Not today.
  • ...
  • What about farming then and the intensive farming techniques required today to support the pop density we have? ..
  • Vedic era did not have to worry about EFFICIENT USAGE OF NATURAL RESOURCES because the population was tiny and nature was immense and virtually limitless. This is not a valid assumption now.
  • Second assumption then was the absence of aggressive competition from outsiders with an expansionist agenda to capture market share in any way possible.
These two realities - over population in a finite planet and external competition - are seldom factored in by our dharmic leaders today. This is caused by their lack of reversing the gaze to understand the world dynamics from our viewpoint. They stopped doing purva paksha after the "victory" over Buddhists, ....

Believe me, as someone who spends a lot of serious thinking time daily on such matters, I would love to develop practical solutions to today's dilemmas facing humanity. Thats what my Apps programs are trying to do with the help of third party experts.

So the point is that mere dismissal of western civilization does not by itself establish the viability of dharmic civilization for today's world situation.

Maybe a very large scale population reduction over the next century is becoming unavoidable. But that is not easily achieved due to the enormous politics at stake - each subgroup in a fragmented society wants its numbers to grow. So does humanity face vicious cycles from which a solution has not yet been proposed?

I am not looking for chauvinism, slogans, blame game, etc. but serious inputs."
Raghu responds (1):
"This is a very important caution. The discovery of a path that is Indian in principles and philosophy but contemporary and pragmatic is a 'razors edge'. What will help is for us to create some forums where we can offer constructive critiques on some of the attempts we are making.

Rajiv's response: THIS is a forum meant to inspire this. BD was written to be a platform for developing such modern day Apps. All of us are co-developers of the Apps...

Raghu responds (2)
The BD approach is the most sensible one I have come across. Dharampal ji when he was in chennai had inspired some of us to walk this path and we had created the People's Patriotic Science and Technology (PPST). ...

Rajiv's response: I have worked with some of Dharampal's top followers, and am involved with a few of them for developing
Apps... Please invite such persons here. This is why I want to move on beyond the whining against others mode - that is necessary to define WHY we have such a NEED, but not sufficient by itself." 

ArjunShakti responds:
Even living in Western society one can live a Vedic lifestyle to some extent .I don't think having a Vedic lifestyle means one has to go backwards to some `stone age' or something. Living Dharmic is about finding a balance and harmony in whatever surrounding one lives in by taking the best from all directions
without harming yourself or society as a whole .Vedic lifestyle and modern technology can go hand in hand. 

Neeraj comments (1):
"... Since the question asked is in the Vedic framework, I assume we are talking of a model which is based on Vegetarianism as an alternative. This change alone can
make a huge difference because, apart from population, one of the culprits is meat industry. ...In simple terms one hectare of rain forest cut down to feed human population can feed ten time more vegetarians as compared to meat eaters.

Rajiv: Agreed

Neeraj comments (1):
The use of chemicals for better yield is again a myth propagated by industry. I can say this because I have worked with a group who promotes organic farming. Initially I thought them to be a bunch of Jholawalas but now I have seen that the yield is far better without the use of chemicals. Not only that, the quality of food is also far better. (e.g. ) Genetically modified foods are an even bigger danger then the chemicals that we used. Firstly, the increased productivity is a myth fabricated by industry and scientists on its payrolls.
The increase is said to be a result of pest resistant property of the crop but so far, the bugs have outsmarted the engineers. Secondly, in Punjab, where bt cotton is being grown (cotton belt), the problems that have arisen are miscarriages (humans and animals), increased infertility, allergic reactions and death of cattle fed remnants of crops. Thirdly, experiments done on animals have established stunted human growth, intestinal cancer and stomach cancer due to GM crops. Fourthly, GM crops reduce crop variety by pollinating with non GM plants. Fifthly, inter generational studies on animals have shown that it is not necessary that the manifestation of any side effects will appear in first generation. I suggest everyone to watch a movie called Food Inc. for a better idea.

Rajiv: Good point. So we must do a point by point rigorous analysis of dharmic civ versus alternatives, to determine what aspects should stay, which ones need to be updated (like smritis get updated), and which are to be rejected and

Jagdish notes:
"I would argue not. Almost all of the vedic systems were heavily wedded to the land we live in, the environment, the rural and pre-industrial setup.

Now, this does not mean that the vedas and our shrutis and smritis by themselves are of no value and hence junk. They have principled eternal messages in them that need to be imbibed in society. There are lessons for stability of mankind and society that need to be retained forever. However the parts that were context and time and space related cannot be used in a new Dharma Shastra.

What we also have to realize is the vedic systems themselves have undergone huge changes in the land scape that is Bharat. The Naastika movements, the Bhakti movements... The need of the hour is to transform the governance structures of this core state to be in alignment with Dharmic principles. What is "holy" to us is not "secularism" "liberalism" or even "democracy". These are evolutions of the west and quite frankly we do not need any lessons from the west on how to run a humane society.

What we do need are some structural elements that are specifically suited to a post industrial society that we can learn from.

Example, in the US the written constitution and laws are avowedly non sectarian but the unwritten constitution (the actual ways and values of society) are decidedly governed on a protestant ethos.

India needs something similar. Where the state is the chief propagator of dharmic systems (this has nothing to do with religion). I personally do not consider SD to be a religion at all. 

I have many more thoughts and there is an excellent thread http://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=5586 that explores some of these issues..."

JCP posts:
The plain answer is a "NO", but what can we have as an alternative system would have to emerge from the best & viable combination of the West (which has been copied in the conscious deliberate development through Indian Five Year plans during the last 65 years & from which the correction would have to start) & the traditional Indian surviving systems which have escaped destruction from the different directions in the past as well as use of the learning that India may have done from the past 1000 years to the extent documented. ...

Rajiv comment: Agreed. This is why I never wanted to join political or other blind bandwagons, because they inhibit creative open thinking out of the box. Criticizing the west is to CLEAR THE SPACE FOR FRESH IDEAS, not as an end in itself. 

Subodh adds: 
"1. Vegetarianism is indeed the only alternative when sustainability is addressed on the basis of water foot print. However this has to be by allowing milk as a vegetarian diet.Vedi tradition hold Cow's milk as God's
Nectar. Certain essential nutritive elements such as vitamin B12, and proteins are not available in any vegetables. These can be supplied only by Milk. Cow's Milk is found the only viable source of all these essential nutrients. Again modern science endorses the Vedic tradition that Cows should feed on green forage. Only Green Forage fed cow's milk has much lower saturated fat. This milk also has the highest content of EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) Omega3, and equal amount of Omega 6, Only such milk supplies all the Carotenoids that are
essential for healthy eyes to avoid cataract and age related macular degeneration..
2. It has been also confirmed by researches nearly 100 years ago in India by Sir Albert Howard that cow based agriculture and traditional Indian crop rotation methods of agriculture do not require any chemicals as fertilizers and pesticides/ insecticides. .... Rudolph Steiner's BioDynamic Agriculture is based on cows and lunar calenders is now an accepted improved method of agriculture even by US Agriculture dept.... This obviates all GM crop science intervention.
3. Adulteration and modification of food items to increase the shelf life are concerns of worry on health issues. ... Modern trend of Urban Agriculture and Buy Locally produced food items are trends going back to revive Vedic life style.
4. Zero food miles also makes considerable fuel savings by reducing lot of transportation, and help in bringing down the prices to the lowest levels.
5. Vedic tradition had laid down [?]-Safe forests as pastures in the vicinity of habitats. Prof William Albrecht soil scientist of Missouri University established in 1920s that cows while grazing on land also maintained its fertility by depositing their Urine and Dung in the pastures. Thus pasture lands are self sustaining and do not require any external inputs to maintain the regular forage supply.
7. Vedas also provide clear legislature strategies and priorities for Line Functions and Staff Functions in governance of nations. And these are all found to be most advanced even by modern management yardstick. Vedas give very clear
guidance on sustainable prosperity , mental and physical health and environments." 

Rajiv's response:
Except for the final point, all items below seem to deal with only food supply. This does not make a convincing enough case, as there is a lot more involved in society than food supply... I would request that we get the analysis "elaborated in minutest details."

Arun's comments:
"The first requirement to maintain a civilization distinct from others is its ability to defend itself. Unless return to Vedic lifestyle also returns to you the secret of Brahmastra, etc., the requirement is to have today's high technology - and all the whole societal set-up needed to keep ahead or abreast of the latest in technology. The first challenge, then is to figure out how you will make that work. ... In the words in K.M. Munshi's retelling of our books, kshatra tej is a necessary accompaniment to brahma tej...." 

Ramesh says:
"....While Rajivji has definitely opened the eyes of the real motives of the western do-gooders working in India, we cannot always blame the west or islamic invasions for all our country's social evils. We need to take responsitily for
the rigid stupidity of our ancestors as well. In that regard, I don't see any reformation that could dismantle the Jati/Varna hierarchial social structure of Indian villages other than completely dismantling it through effective legislation that has punitive consequences.

Speaking of punitive consequences, I am aware of it's misuse in India today regarding affirmative action policies or instances of journalistic freedom getting wrongly potrayed as hate speech towards a particular Jati etc. But this genie cannot be put back into the bottle."

Karthik responds:
"For me a vedic lifestyle is one that allows for the balanced pursuit of the four puruShArthas, dharma, artha, kAma and mOkSha. The activities that can give us artha and kAma change from time to time. We find newer and newer ways of seeking pleasure and material wealth all the time. And the traditions that we have give the other two. Karma KANDam gives a basis for the pursuit of dharma and the jnAna kANDam the pursuit of mOkSha. Thus, for me, a vedic lifestyle is one that gives a strong association for every individual in the society to a particular karma and also lays out a path where the person, if he chooses to, would seek mOkSha.

I see the karma kANDam rituals as ones where our tradition has tried to make us enlightened consumers. Unlike a consumerist society (which lays emphasis on artha and kAma alone, leading to over-consumption and hence decay of dharma), the vedic society expected people to temper their artha and kAma pursuits through dharma. And at the same time, through the various karmas, made us 'consume' for the sake of the devas. ...

The various karmas like yajnas, temple rituals like abhiShEkam, or spending on festivals like Deepavali, or giving dAna to a worthy cause, for me signify this enlightened consumption. So, what we need in a vedic lifestyle then, are such karmas, which will help us temper our artha and kAma pursuits and at the same time direct the consumption for a larger good of the society.

So, we should continue to conduct yajnas, build temples in places where we live, donate money etc. with a proper understanding of why we are doing it and that constitutes the vedic lifestyle, according to me. For this lifstyle to exist, we need
1. To take some pride in our traditions.
2. Know why we are taking pride in the traditions (so it does not get to the head in a meaningless way)


Using ideas from BD, we can say the means of production and points of consumption, should not be connected synthetically as producers and consumers, but as an integral whole, karma being the underlying connection. The producers produce for the yajna and the consumer feeds the yajna. The producer's primary objective then is not to maximize individual profit nor is the consumer's primary objective the pleasure of consumption. Both these exist for sure, but as secondary objectives.
Raj shares a link on parenting in Indian society
The author, Vimla Patil mentions the worldview promoted by BD, in the context of bringing up children.

Kesava comments:
"I feel we can get back to Vedic System of living in a limited way, but not in strictest sense.
Take simple example of Pancha Yajnas. Via Pancha Yajnas, which should be treated
as a duty of a householder, he
1) serves society via brahma yajna, deva yajna
2) serves individuals via manushya yajna
3) respects and serves family via pitru yajna
4) respects nature via bhuta yajna

It seems to me that attempt of our ancient gurus has been to return to Yajnic roots but in a different form. Not everybody will be doing all Yajnas. For instance, Namboothiri families can do Athirathram type of Soma Yajnas only once in lifetime. This explains why such complex Soma Yajnas are not so often
conducted. To me, simple concept like Pancha Yajna replaces complex maha yajna procedures with simple and low cost ways, in a day to day life..."

Rajiv comment:
1) Your "solution" to the question Vedic whether lifestyle is scalable to our 100 times bigger population density covers a very narrow aspect only. It looks at ritual as the core of Vedic lifestyle, and simply ignores dealing with broader issues of super high population density:

- Can the rule by king work today?
- Can villages with such high densities and so close to one another enable life to continue without heavy duty technology and machinery?
- Will heavy industry, in turn, lead to competition intense? (Remember the Soviet experiment to fight free enterprise failed.)
- Does the resulting mobility of jobs cause break up of joint families?
- can we keep animals with us in high density apartment buildings?
- can we fight external enemies who are at the gates, if we have so much decentralization of society, and the resulting fragmentation? ...."

uv_s2 adds:
"....Any alternative cannot be prescriptive to the core. It has to have a few principles that we should all veer towards but specific answers can be identified by each community/ grouping based on experimentation and review.

b. The core minimum principles that must be established must be such that these can be applied in all situations - whether family life, personal choices, corporate life, societal behaviour, relationship between two nations, scientific pursuit, etc. Such principles must then become the constitution of the country.
If Equality, Secularism, Minority protection, etc are adopted as Constitution, while these are possibly useful on their own, they cannot be applied to our day to day life as these are not really subtle enough or useful enough for application..." 


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