Saturday, March 10, 2012

We are narrative animals

Hindutva propagandist's book reveiwed in Delhi journal Manushi from Communalism Watch by c-info. See review of Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism by Rajiv Malhotra (Reviewed by Prof. Indra Nath Choudhuri, Former Director, Sahitya Academy)
In conclusion, I’d like to say that in the 1970s I first read and was inspired by ‘The Speaking Tree’ by R. Lannoy. Now after a gap of almost 40 years, I’ve had the good fortune to read another seminal book on Hindu dharmic tradition - ‘Being Different’ by Rajiv Malhotra.
There are some who might view Malhotra as having taken a slanted position, favoring dharmic traditions rather than playing the role of a critical insider. No doubt, he does not lay bare the detrimental aspects of the dharmic tradition nor offer any proposals on how to change these traditions from within. He does draw great inspiration from Gandhi but does not, as Gandhi did, modify, adapt or reconstruct the tradition that he analyzes. [...]
Roy too felt, as Malhotra alludes in his other writings, that religious supremacy is influenced by a sense of Western racial and cultural superiority. We see everywhere cultural conflicts between the traditional East and the West as well as among the three Abrahmaic traditions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has become all the more necessary to respond with renewed efforts to replace the clash of civilizations with a dialogue among civilizations.

THE FUTURE OF RELIGION: TOWARDS A NEW PARADIGM OF RELIGION FOR A GLOBALISING WORLD-I M.S. Srinivasan (This article is the first part of a paper presented in an international seminar on "Dynamics of Religious Trajectories" at M.O.P Vaishnava College for Women, Chennai.) Worm in the Rose
So the canker, the worm in the rose, is the cult-ego. And the most pernicious form of this Ego in religion is the dogmatic assertion that my path or prophet is the only way to God or heaven and all others who follow other paths belong to the Devil and are condemned to eternal hell. It is this ignorant assertion which is the source of all fanaticism and fundamentalism in religion and has made religion into an instrument of division and hatred among people. All other aspects of religion like scriptures, mythology, ceremony, rituals, symbols can remain in the future, because they are necessary aids in the progressive spiritual evolution of the soul. But this dogmatic and exclusive assertion is a phantom of the past and has no place in the future. Some orthodox sections of the society may cling to these phantoms and they may raise aggressively to the surface as it is happening at present, in the form of fundamentalist terrorism. But they are allowed to rise in order to be eliminated. This is one of the methods of Nature for getting rid of things of the past which are harmful or no longer helpful to the future evolution of humanity. So we need not be too disturbed by the growing menace of fundamentalism and religious terrorism. They are allowed to rise in order to be thrown out. If the warrior-energies of nations, instead of fighting amongst themselves, join together to fight the menace, then it can be defeated. 
The Inner Remedy
But inflicting a military defeat on the forces of fundamentalism is only a temporary solution to the problem. The permanent solution to the problem lies in an inner moral, psychological and spiritual regeneration of religion. The outer reformation through reason or social renovation is helpful but not enough. There has to be an inner regeneration of the mind and soul of religion.
There are three possible approaches: first is the psychological approach or in other words, application of psychology to the religious and spiritual development of the individual; second is to revive the spiritual core of each religion and reinvent or reshape the other outer dimensions in the light of this recovered spiritual intuition and experience; third is a spiritual religion of humanity. Let us briefly examine these possibilities. (To be continued-) (M.S. Srinivasan is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.) Mailing Address: M.S. Srinivasan Research Associate Sri Aurobindo Society Beach Office Research Section 11, St. Martin Street Puducherry-605001 Email: Phone: 0431-2336396-97-98

"Sri Aurobindo on Hinduism" by Peter Heehs -- reviewed by Raman Reddy 12 Aug 2010 – The following paragraph is from a booklet by Peter Heehs entitled Sri Aurobindo on Hinduism and published by the Sri Aurobindo Society, ... 7:57 AM

Preface of TLOSA -- by Alok Pandey1:07 PM - The fact is that PH has more often quoted the enemies and critics of Sri Aurobindo and shied away from those who have made positive statements on him. He does not give credence to even Sri Aurobindo’s statements on the events of his own life, though he is quick in highlighting Sri Aurobindo’s negative statements on himself in a highly decontextualised manner. Why this biased choice on implicitly accepting “negative statements” and rejecting outright “positive statements” of Sri Aurobindo or h...

I suppose the lesson has always stayed with me. It accounts for my cynicism over the Lok Pal and the concept of “Persons of unimpeachable integrity”… In general, I am sceptical of any solution that relies on people’s character rather than structures and incentives. 10:39 AM  

Back to his roots from The Immanent Frame by Matteo Bortolini
When writing about other people, we all should follow Pierre Bourdieu’s advice to not be too fascinated by our human subjects. This is necessary in order to escape the “biographical fallacy,” the temptation to narrate lives as if they were historically continuous and logically consistent wholes. Bourdieu is right. Our lives are a mess of disparate events, novelties and routines, strategic decisions and lapses of reason, chances and regrets, with little, if any, overall meaning. At the same time, as Robert N. Bellah writes at the beginning of his magisterial tour de force, we are narrative animals. We cannot avoid telling stories, and every story has to have a hero, a quest, and a finale. In this brief essay I recount a couple of stories about Religion in Human Evolution, reading through the lines of this fascinating work to find and highlight some of the many threads which connect it to its author’s past.
Readers interested in Bellah’s work obviously remember his 1964 paper on “Religious Evolution” (Jonathan Z. Smith gave us an interesting reading of the differences between the two works), and some may even know that he wrote a first draft of that essay while in Montreal in 1956—that is, 55 years before he published Religion in Human Evolution. Students of Bellah also know that his undergraduate course on the sociology of religion always included a historical section in which two or more world religions were compared to show the development of religious symbols, actions, and organizations within different societal and cultural contexts.

Under the pseudonym Maurice Florence, Foucault writes that if it is possible for him to find a “home in the philosophical tradition,” then his at least semi-comfortable dwelling place is “within the critical tradition of Kant, and his undertaking could be called A Critical History of Thought.”[1] […]
For example, in his essay, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” Foucault opposes the genealogist to the metaphysician or at least to the historian whose account depends upon metahistorical criteria. The task of the genealogist it not “an attempt to capture the exact essence of things, their purest possibilities, and their carefully protected identities”;[8] nor does it presuppose the “existence of immobile forms that precede the external world of accident and succession.”[9] Rather, the genealogist attentive to the contours, fissures, fractures, and rugged topography of various historical landscapes must, for the sake of accurate analyses, recoil from placing his “faith in metaphysics.”[10]  If he does so, he will find that not only do the purported static essences “behind things” not exist as assumed, but likewise “their essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien forms.”[11] As if these claims are not sufficiently scandalous, Foucault continues,
[e]xamining the history of reason, he [the genealogist] learns that it was born in an altogether “reasonable” fashion—from chance;[12] devotion to truth and the precision of scientific methods arose from the passion of scholars, their reciprocal hatred, their fanatical and unending discussions, and their spirit of competition—the personal conflicts that slowly forged the weapons of reason.[13] Further, genealogical analysis shows that the concept of liberty is an “invention of the ruling classes”[14] and not fundamental to man’s nature or at the root of his attachment to being and truth.[15]
With this passage it appears that not only does reason itself have a history, a narrative of its various emergences and culturally contingent instantiations, but freedom is a ruse and is in no way constitutive of what it is to be a human.  For those who have not condemned metaphysics to the flames, these statements paint a rather bleak and despairing picture.  However, one of the difficulties with this passage and the essay as a whole is discerning precisely where Nietzsche ends and Foucault begins.  In other words, is every conclusion voiced in the text an expression of Foucault’s own position, or is he offering a detailed, sympathetic reading of Nietzsche? If the latter is the case (and I tend to favor this suggestion), then one need not equate every aspect, perspective, and stance articulated therein with Foucault’s own position, much less with his later views on freedom, resistance, and the interrelation between freedom and thought.

Who is a Hindu? The credal definitions – Koenraad Elst « Bharata ... bharatabharati Posted on March 10, 2012 by IS. Who is a Hindu 18 Oct 2008 Sri Aurobindo on caste
The difficult relation between caste in Hindu history and modern anti-caste reform was perhaps best articulated by Sri Aurobindo. First of all, he emphasizes the confinement of caste to purely worldly affairs: “Essentially there was, between the devout Brahmin and the devout Sudra, no inequality in the single virât purusha [Cosmic Spirit] of which each was a necessary part. Chokha Mela, the Maratha Pariah, became the Guru of Brahmins proud of their caste purity; the Chandala taught Shankaracharya: for the Brahman was revealed in the body of the Pariah and in the Chandala there was the utter presence of Shiva the Almighty.”[31] This could, of course, be dismissed as a case of “opium of the people”, conceding to them a spiritual equality all the better to justify the worldly inequality.
Secondly, Aurobindo avoids the somewhat contrived attempts to deny the close connection between the specificity of Hindu civilization and the caste system: “Caste therefore was (…) a supreme necessity without which Hindu civilisation could not have developed its distinctive character or worked out its unique mission.”[32] So far, he actually seems to support the line now taken by anti-Hindu authors, viz. that caste is intrinsic to Hinduism, eventhough selectively highlighting cases where low-caste people got a certain recognition in non-social, religious respects.
However, Aurobindo’s third point is that social reform including the abolition of caste is equally true to the fundamental genius of Hindu civilization: “But to recognise this is not to debar ourselves from pointing out its later perversions and desiring its transformation. It is the nature of human institutions to degenerate, to lose their vitality, to decay, and the first sign of decay is the loss of flexibility and oblivion of the essential spirit in which they were conceived. The spirit is permanent, the body changes; and a body which refuses to change must die. (…) There is no doubt that the institution of caste degenerated. It ceased to be determined by spiritual qualifications which, once essential, have now come to be subordinate and even immaterial and is determined by the purely material tests of occupation and birth. By this change it has set itself against the fundamental tendency of Hinduism which is to insist on the spiritual and subordinate the material, and thus lost most of its meaning.”[33]
Chronologically, this position could use some corrections (was the low status of the Chandala who spoke to Shankara not a symptom of an already advanced “degeneration”?), but we get the picture, the caste system may have been right in some past age, but now Hindu society should adapt to the modern age. This evaluation by Aurobindo proved to be trend-setting and is now very common in Hindutva discourse. […]
Hinduism profoundly respects worldly difference and distinctiveness, and while that cannot justify the atrocities which have been committed in the name of caste, it does help to explain why Hindus could maintain the system with a perfectly good conscience for so long. So, in one sense, it is undeniable that caste resonates profoundly with the Hindu world-view; but the point is that Hinduism has more arrows in its quiver.
To put it differently, there is one intrinsic aspect of Hindu culture for which the caste system was an eminently useful (though not strictly necessary) social framework: the fabled Hindu tolerance. It is one thing to say that Hindu society has received the persecuted Jewish, Syrian Christian and Parsi communities well, but another to devise a system that allowed them to retain their identity and yet integrate into Hindu society. Whatever else one may think about the caste system, it is a fact that it facilitated the integration of separate communities.

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