Why Integral Unity and Not Synthetic Unity?

This is post devoted to a single thread on this topic. A very interesting discussion.
February 21
Chapter 3: Why Integral Unity And Not Synthetic Unity
Surya comments:
  1. Without synthetic unity there is no God/Man separation
  2. Without God/Man separation there is no need for prophet to access truth
  3. Without prophet to access truth there is no truth based on history
  4. Without truth based on history there is no exclusive access to truth
  5. Without exclusive access to truth there is no religious intolerance
  6. Without religious intolerance there is mutual respect
  7. With mutual respect there is no religious violence 
February 22
BD Chapter 3: Integral Unity vs. Synthetic Unity
Surya posts:
Dharmic faiths = Integral Unity

Integral unity means ultimately ONLY the whole exists; the parts that make up the whole have but a RELATIVE existence. The whole is independent and indivisible.

Creation is not separate from God. Since the divine manifests itself as the cosmos, the entire cosmos is intelligent and ultimately one. God is not merely the creator (the external force) of the world; God IS the world.

...Integral unity can be discovered and experienced through spiritual practices.

Dharmic notion of integral unity is summarized in chapter seven of Bhagavad Gita. Long before the Gita, Vedas described only one Ultimate Reality, with many layers and levels. There is no shift in the Scriptures from polytheism to
monotheism as some Western scholars claim.

Abrahamic faiths = Synthetic Unity
Synthetic unity starts with parts that EXIST separately from one another.

There is one unique event, the creation, that is separate from its creator and before which there was nothing.

Physical and non-physical entities ultimately have their own independent existence, linked only externally by divine fiat.

There are inherently separate entities: God and Creation, God and Human, body and mind, spirit and matter etc., ."

Does the knowledge and concept of integral unity guide our views and policy for rural development ?  

.... Dr. Kamal's question is quite pertinent, particularly considering that his institute in involved in Holistic research for rural development..."
Karthik responds:
"I feel this knowldge was addressed when Gandhiji called for "production by the masses instead of mass production" . EF SChaumacher, an Econimist in 60s revived this with his "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered" and his reference to Buddhist Economics. A reasonable write up on this is in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_economics.
THis could be well applicable to Hindu Economics as well.

Surya responds:
"Integral Unity should not be confused with a centralized, monolithic system.  Forcing such a top-down hierarchy is indeed antithetical to Dharmic traditions.  Such a forced unity is synthetical in nature.  Thus, mass production is a synthetically forced unity.

Schumacher talks about how high economic efficiency can be wasteful in certain natural resources even though it is the least cost or most economical approach.  Mass production seeks to replace human capital with other less expensive resources.  In the end, it ignores the human element and the human need for a respectable livelihood: ...

The notion of cottage industry advocated by Gandhiji was founded on the principle of "small is beautiful - economic way where people matter".  
The dilemma that arises is:  Economics where people matter is unstable - it is an ideal that is a peak of the mountain; one can easily slip off this peak when exploited.  Economics where profits matter is stable - it is at the bottom of the valley of ideals but it is very stable; difficult to exploit you here.

I will leave with a question: 

Will the growth of Dharmic traditions bring greater stability at the top?  Or should we give up and accept as fact that the bottom of the valley is the only stable economic state?"

Ram comments:
"One of the overlooked advantages of the decentralized dharmic spiritual system is extreme resistance to outside attempts to destroy it, such as moves by conquerors to wipe out the system.

The strength of the centralized authoritarianism like Christianity or Islam is its clear lines of authority, organization internally, its leadership class of highly trained priests, its education system and its ability to act like a unit against threats. That is also its weakness, because the centralized system works well only when it is protected by the state. If the state is conquered by an outside group or a new political entity, the centralized authoritarian group loses its protection and can easily be shattered.

Look at how the Russian communists crushed the Eastern Orthodox church after the Russian Revolution as an example. .... So in a single generation the Eastern Orthodox was wiped out, and no new generations grew up within that system.
In contrast the dharmic systems like Hinduism are apparently designed for the long term, to be able to resist immense pressure from the outside. Hinduism does not depend on the patronage or protection of the state and can exist strongly even if the state is hostile. ... They can choose their own spiritual path, their own ish devta, without permission or approval from any organized group.

When the Muslims invaded India they made enormous attempts to wipe out Hinduism and convert all to Islam, by force if necessary. ...

This went on in various forms for hundreds of years, but yet at the end of the Moghul era in India less than 10 percent of the Indians had been converted to Islam. In most other countries they had conquered, the Muslims quickly achieved conversion rates of over 75%, and in some places like Iran and Iraq they hit close to 100%.  In India the only way to wipe out Hinduism was to wipe out the Hindus physically, which was foolish.

I understand that Buddhists has also proved very resistant to destruction or conversion, because of the same decentralized system that has the individual free to pursue his connection with the divine without intermediaries, institutions or permission from authoritarian structures.

We believe that the Hindu rishis and swamis who wandered the world thousands of years ago made some conclusions that we are still benefitting from today. Religions rise and fall over time, depending on the nature of their structure and change in circumstances. ...  A system that is fixed and attached to the norms of a particular culture in historical time will shatter when that culture changes and moves on.

So those rishis and swamis developed a system that would be flexible and adaptable to change, that would not be dependent on centralized authoritarian structures, that could be practiced without dependence on external instututions or priests, that could  be practiced secretly or at home, that offered freedom of choice as opposed to a fixed menu, that allowed members to function at their own level of development, that was based on firm and defensible philosophical principles, that allowed and welcomed new methods of worship and religious systems, that was egalitarian and non sexist, non racist, respectful towards other systems, respectful to the environment and all living beings....
That is the heritage of Hindus, one which we neglect at our peril.

Arjunshakti responds:
"Its true that Hinduism is resilient but lets not forget that Hindus in the past did also stand their ground militarily especially during Islamic periods.Theres many myths that have been created to promote that hindus were just passive were slaves for a thousand years but still made it through.This is the reason why sometimes even good intentioned Hindus think that its ok we dont have to stand our ground because we survived in the past so we will continue to survive but thats not the truth or the reality.."

struth91 adds:
"...The core takeaway of Chapter 3 is in the contrasting attitudes towards Science and Reason in the respective societies. Hebraism and Hellenism coming together to create the artificial entity known as 'Western Civilization' was always a force-fit.

It is ironical that Matthew Arnold used 'Hebraism' as his term for Christian Biblical heritage and moralistic worldview that contrasted with Science - when the original Hebraic religion (Judaism) was and is perhaps less dogma-driven than is Christianity, resulting in a more positive attitude towards Science.

See this article for a Jewish viewpoint on why Judaism 'embraces Science' far more so than does Christianity:.

Each one of the three points that the Rabbi makes for Judaism, holds true to a much larger extent for Hinduism (& Dharmic religions in general)...

Surya comments:
"...applied to evolving proper policy for development.

For clarity, I will identify my position: Followers of Dharmic traditions find comfort in a self-organizing socio-economic system versus followers of Abrahamic faiths who will find comfort in a highly organized, centrally commanded socio-economic system.  Advantage for followers of Dharmic traditions is that they are comfortable will both forms - they can choose either forms and be comfortable as we see in India.  Followers of Abrahamic faiths are uncomfortable with self-organized systems.

Underlying premise is that the faith system of a follower defines his/her zone of comfort and hence is a major driver of choices he/she makes for the system. 

Reasoning with BD concepts is as follows:

1) Chaos vs. Order
Comfort with chaos implies that Dharmic followers are open to a socio-economic system which is self-organizing in nature and evolves to meet the specific needs of the society.

For example, Mass production by cotton mills is highly structured, centralized, and driven centrally by profit motive (economic efficiency) as opposed to handloom industry that is organized around societal needs (economically suboptimal but caters to the human needs of large number of artisans)."

Karthik responds:
"... Just by coincidence... they remind me somewhat of these five principles:
  1. The importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person's advantage
  2. Individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities
  3. The multi-variate nature of activities giving rise to happiness
  4. A balance of materialistic and nonmaterialistic factors in evaluating human welfare
  5. Concern for the distribution of opportunities within society
Guess what those five principles are? They're known collectively as the basis of what is called "Capabilities Approach". Amartya Sen is credited with having "developed" these ideas (all by his own sweet self!) in the 1980s. The "Capabilities Approach" as applied to other aspects of society is a recurrent theme in the writings of another vaunted professor of "Ethics", Martha Nussbaum.

Easy to see what happened here, no? First, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum et al pile onto the deconstructionist bandwagon and use Western critical theory to relentlessly hammer dharmic civilization as obscurantist, elitist, caste-riven, inegalitarian, restrictive, etc. etc.

Of course, once the Western Grand Narrative representation of India has become the norm in cultural studies, our civilization's intellectual wealth is conveniently available for plunder, digestion, and re-packaging as "original thought" by the Amartya Sen/Martha Nussbaum types!

"Poverty" is still bandied about as a characteristically Indian vice... but a "capabilities approach", outlined on exactly the same dharmic principles of self-organizing social and economic development described by Surya below, has suddenly become the unique, original intellectual property of Sen and Nussbaum!! All hail the Age of Reason!

These fellows are indeed the Clive and Mir Jaffar of today."
Rajiv comments:
"This is very good analysis of Amartya Sen's and his girlfriend's (i.e. Nussbaum's) trajectory that fits the UTurn Theory. With one hand appropriate (i.e. stage 3 of uturn) and with the other hand denigrate the source (i.e. stage 4 of uturn). These stages as per uturn theory do not have to happen in one set sequence, nor do thay all happen in the same individual, and could take multiple generations of scholars to become evident. There is also stage 5 in which this "new and Western" thought is re-exported back to Indian intellectuals who eagerly lap it up"

Surya adds:
"BD comments further to distinguish between apparent organic systems and Dharmic integral systems.  

(1) Synthetic unity is, at best, a convenience; it misses out on the deeper bonds that hold people together across the boundaries of hierarchies and diversified of various kinds.  Synthetic systems can be functional and pragmatic -serve their design purpose well.  For them to be integral systems, how the individual elements function versus the whole is looked at.

(2) A tighter form of synthetic unity can take on an organic quality where the overarching interests of the whole override separate interests of the parts.  The whole takes priority and parts are subservient to it.

(3) Many organic systems fall short of integral unity in the Dharmic sense.  This is because their building blocks are still separate and exert powers separately.  It is rare for a synthetic collection to become so integrated that the parts permanently relinquish their own self-interest.

(4) It could be a tentative coalition for a purpose - individual interests can surface at any time.  In integral systems, there is no question of temporary coalitions.  There is only one purpose.  

.. There is a simple test offered in BD to see if a system qualifies the definition of an integral system:

If the individual elements of the system retain their identity and interests separately then the system is synthetic.  
It is easy to identify some synthetic systems.  For example, the capital marketplace is synthetic in the sense that its participants try to optimize their own separate interests, the market's purpose being to enable each participant to transact for its own benefit.

Cooperative farming is a synthetic system.  Here the coalition is temporary and the individual elements are participating out of self interest.  United Nations is another example of this kind."

Rajesh shares:
"Actually this issue of Top-Down Organization vs Self-Organization is important for the future trajectory of Indian Retail Industry.

In the Western World one sees a few big players who own most of the retail outlets. They keep on buying the smaller players in the market further consolidating their market share and joint-monopoly!

In India one sees a huge number of sellers and vendors, who may be small and have just a few shops in a single town.

Now why is it important to preserve Mom&Pop Stores, family owned businesses, etc. vs Big Retail. After all Big Retail does offer us consumers more competitive prices, i.e. until their (monopoly project is complete), they do help in the creation of more efficient industry for Logistics, Refrigeration, Storage, Assembly, etc.

The biggest advantage in keeping it small is that in times of repression, self-organized retail sector has the ability to absorb a lot more people, who can look independently for opportunities, who can be self-employed. The Self-Organized Retail Sector offers a buffer for such times, especially as all other areas including agriculture in order to become more efficient have to cut down on dependent people. So Self-Organized Retail Sector remains the only savior in such times. For a huge country like ours where big industry nor government can provide jobs for everybody, this is a huge plus point.

How does the West react during times of recession? Well they roll out huge stimulus packages. They give money to various industries like construction industry, and other industries, for doing new projects in the hope that this heightened economic activity would give more people jobs. Invariably one gets only jobless growth. The industry takes the money but does not hire new people because they can do without! And the unemployed have nowhere to look for jobs. And the government has nowhere to fund jobs directly except the already bloated public services. So these people remain unemployed. In the West there is no Industry, which can act as a Recession Buffer.

In a global economy, where the pressure is so much to keep production costs low, it is possible that in agriculture and manufacturing there would be shift towards more efficiency and possibly more organization. That is all the more reason that inefficiency costs can be tolerated when they are more closer to user, i.e. in the retail sector.

Summarizing, we should keep the Retail Sector as self-organized and try to avoid Big Retail to force its way in! It will save us from the Recession and Jobless Growth problems of the West!"

Karthik adds:
"Developing, and effectively marketing, a BD-based "App" for economic development is a particularly pressing need, because poverty (like the "plight of women") is one of those emotive touchstones used over and over again by postcolonial theorists employing Western categories to depict India as a "uniquely divided and oppressive place" (Ronald Inden, quoted in BD)

When the arch-pedagogues of the Western Grand Narrative, and their acolytes on the Indian Left, use "poverty" to bash India (and by extension, all that is Indian)... we have the deck stacked against us from the start. That is because "poverty" is emotionally loaded, and any discussion of the subject provides an excellent vehicle for gratuitous civilizational invective.

Everybody knows "poverty" is bad, right? So when we get defensive about drain-inspector portrayals of poverty in India (such as "Slumdog Millionaire") it becomes easy for the enemy to portray us as vain jackasses... indeed, to assume a moral high ground and bash us with righteous indignation at our "inhumane indifference to the suffering of less privileged Indians". We are accused, in our embrace of "bourgeoisie nationalism", of willfully turning a blind eye to the harsh realities with which millions of our fellow countrymen contend every day.

Here is a case study in the use of "poverty". A potentially honest and non-judgmental journalistic treatise on an Indian slum has been immediately co-opted by the Usual Suspects to push their venal and motivated deconstruction of India.

This is a book by one Katherine Boo who has apparently written about the effects of  poverty and deprivation around the world, including in the United States.

This book in particular deals with the Annawadi slum near Mumbai airport. Having not read the book myself, I cannot comment on whether it is simply a "drain-inspector's report" or actually offers a fresh perspective. It is quite possible, given Boo's reputation as a dispassionate and thorough journalist, that the book is simply a careful, non-judgmental and even sympathetic record of her interactions with Annawadi's inhabitants over a period of some years. She has not spared economic inequality in the West, and was awarded the Pullitzer Prize in 2000 for her reporting on the plight of welfare recipients and group-home inhabitants in Washington DC.

Boo herself is a journalist, not a "theorist". She appears to have reported on her experiences in Annawadi (thankfully) without resorting to "analysis" or "interpretation".

However, her book has already become a vehicle for celebration, and hijack, by the theory-wallahs we know so well. They have seized upon it as another chance to do India down, and reinforce their pet themes.

"A beautiful account, told through real-life stories, of the sorrows and joys, the anxieties and stamina, in the lives of the precarious and powerless in urban India whom a booming country has failed ...."... Amartya Sen

Not to be outdone:
"....." Ramachandra Guha

"Her book, situated in a slum on the edge of Mumbai’s international airport, is one of the most powerful indictments of economic inequality I've ever read. If Bollywood ever decides to do its own version of The Wire, this would be it.”... Barbara Ehrenreich

[...In her view, Bollywood should take its cue from the mirror that American journalist Katherine Boo is holding up before India, and become inspired to incorporate the Western Grand narrative of Indian poverty into its own pop-cultural representations of itself!...]
One effect of this assault is to pre-emptively delegitimize alternative frameworks of conceiving of poverty, of approaching and resolving the social and economic problems associated with poverty. That is exactly what the Indian left wants: a monopoly over the characterization of Indian poverty, restricted to dogmatically Marxist frameworks that will never, ever concede an inch of space for dharmic solutions.

Just one of many reasons why I am so grateful that Rajiv has begun this work.."

struth91 posts:
"Regarding a BD-based "App" for economic development-

Economics is best addressed as a component of Governance (Raj Dharma). A useful way of understanding Dharma, the ethics and science of decision making, is to categorize it as operating at 4 levels : Individual & Community Dharma, Corporate Dharma (covering all forms of organizations and leadership issues), Raj Dharma (including governance, politics, economics and jurisprudence) & Inter-State Dharma.

There's  already a fair amount of work on classical Indian thought around economics ..

As is well known, Kautilya's Arthashastra is probably the earliest ever treatise in the world on economics. There was also a defined Sreni Dharma for regulating the srenis /  guilds of ancient India, a precursor to modern-day Corporate Law.

Coming to "Apps" in this area- would be better to aim to popularize concepts, processes and frameworks of analysis that are derived from classical Indian thought. But there is some danger in full-fledged economic positions unless these are sophisticated and nuanced enough to stand up against current models.  Simplistic 'black and white' positions, such as an anti-multinational message (the RSS propagated this in the nineties) can be easily panned as being 'obscurantist'...."

Senthil introduces a new angle to the discussion. Rajiv notes: "Good points made. See my challenge in the new thread I am starting, titled "Is the Vedic lifestyle viable today?". This thread was summarized here.

"One of the important message in BD is "Reversing the Gaze"..  its a call to bring ourselves out of the western models and see them from our dharmic perspective..  

So far, we were discussing about dharma from a philosophical angle..  i call it as "Software" part..   We also need to consider another part of our dharma, which is the hardware part..  ie, what are the physical environment needed for our dharma to flourish?  I wish, this should also be discussed..  Let me share few things, which i had thought over..

1. The present system of politics, the administration, the geographical organisation, are all based on western systems.  What i find is that, we are trying to fit our dharma, in to these western systems, which i feel is incompatible.  

To quote one example, the current westernised urban system, heavily pollutes rivers, seas, and ground water system.  So many lakes, has been destroyed to expand big metros like chennai, mumbai etc.  Such acts cannot be part of dharma.   Rivers are divine for us, so as other water sources. 

Another example i could cite is that every hindu has to perform pitru dharpan to our ancestors, and for that we need water sources.  In our traditional administration system, a nagara or a grama is planned, and built in such a way, that is conducible for hindu way of life style.  In all ancient nagaras, there would be a shiva/vishnu temple at the center, with a big lake.   In All traditional gramas, there would be a grama devata at the centre of the village, with  a lake/pond or a small water body besides it.  These water bodies, enable hindus to do their religious rituals. So our dharma flourished, because, our nagara and grama were built according to agamas.  Today, the metros, and towns are built based on western model, for western type of economic system, and not based on dharmic way of life or dharmic way of economy.   That's the reason we are finding it more and more difficult to adhere to our dharma in Metros.  Infact, its virtually impossible for dharma to exist there.

2. We never had anonymous/atomised populations before britishers.  Our society had a different kind of representation system, based on family/jathi/village, which is still existing in the other part of india.   Every jathi had jathi panchayat headed by jathi elders, which resolves internal family and jathi disputes.  At a village level, there would be village panchayat, resolves issues related to village administration or inter-jathi disputes. Whether jathis are outdated or not, is a different question.  ...

3. Hinduism is often described as a way of life.  However, a way of life is based on societal setup, and the physical setup (village/nagara planning).
   Societal setup:  the jathis, its gothra, kula devata, all have their own way of worship, rituals, marriage etc. which forms the cultural part.
   Physical Setup:  the facilitation by design of living area (village/nagara), in such a way, that the life style (& hence the dharma) of these jathis are made possible and feasible.

There is one more angle - the economic angle - which i will not include for now.

4. Based on Rajiv's excellent point of "Sanskrit Non-Translatables", i would like to convey, that the words, Nagara, Grama, Dhesa  cannot be equated to city, village or nation of the western vocabulary.  In Europe, the nation is always based on race and language.  Whereas in our civilization, a dhesam is based on dharma.  We had 56 ancient dhesams, and all of them, had the same social structure - The brahmanas, kshatriyas, vyshyas, and shudras.  The racial formation is virtually impossible in such setup.

In western terms, a village is a place with sparse population.  As per webster's dictionary till 1830s, a village is termed as place where barbarians live.  We cannot apply this term to denote our gramas.  Our gramas are well planned, and well designed as per agama.  (Note:  we verified this aspect, by visiting many of the gramas in chera dhesam in tamilnadu..   )

5. The social composition of a typical village is same across south india ( for north india, i have no data as of now).  The farming community would be predominant, and some dozen other jathis that exists as part of them.  The beauty is that, all these jathis constitute a single entity.  ie, due to some reason (famine/war), if the farming community migrates, they do no go alone.  But migrate as a whole, with all the associated jathis.."
Raghu responds to Senthil:
"We must guard against a romantic reconstruction of our past. ... studied the Vaastu Shastras for ten years... We have seen both the exalted and the extractive sides of the so called pundits. While the original texts are open and rational, later day practitioners and present day Vaastu pundits have distorted the design principles beyond recognition into
a dogmatic set of formulae backed by blind belief.

Some of the governance mechanisms described by Dharampal and Claude Alvarez were misrepresented by the leaders of the time to accumulate land and wealth on the one hand, and allow the traditional duties to languish.

We have a difficult task on our hands, firstly of rediscovering a balanced sense of pride, secondly, of looking critically and rationally at both the past and the present. Dharampal was fond of saying that we can't become a great nation by
running behind the tails of the west, nor by blind resurrection of the tradition." 

Rajiv's response: This is a good comment and belongs to the new thread I started with message no. 2208. (summarized in this post - last week).

Arun has the last word in this discussion:
"The decentralized knowledge systems such as we call Hinduism today survived.The centralized ones, such as were taught in Nalanda, Taxila (of course, it included the traditions that survive today) perished.  It is not as though we did not have centralized knowledge systems, IMO."

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