Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Process of dissemination is never straightforward

Peter Heehs: 2013. Roots, Branches, and Seeds: The teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo examined in the light of Indian tradition, colonial modernity and one another. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Occasional Paper, History and Society Series, No.14. (Pdf file available here)

Fortunately for us, the words of Vivekananda and Aurobindo have been carefully preserved in printed and digital texts. Earlier teachers did not have it so good. We read the Pali Canon and Greek New Testament but have reason to wonder how far the printed words correspond to what the Buddha and the Christ actually said. We have no such worries in regard to the works of Vivekananda and Aurobindo – but we do have another worry. As willing or unwilling postmodernists, we know that the process of dissemination is never straightforward. Whatever we might think of Jacques Derrida, we pay heed to his warning about ‘the impossibility of reducing a text as such to its effects of meaning, content, thesis or theme’. Philosophers – and perhaps mystics as well – strive in vain to control the dissemination of the meanings of their texts. [...]

Neo-orthodox scholars such as Bithika Mukerji, Anantanand Rambachan, and Michael Comans (a.k.a. Sri Vasudevacharya) have cautiously suggested that Vivekananda’s understanding of Vedanta is not supported by the views of earlier authorities. Historians of yoga, such as Elizabeth De Michelis, Mark Singleton, and Joseph Alter examine the role Vivekananda and Aurobindo played in the modern history of yogic theory and practice, pointing out that they omitted much of what was taken to be yoga before the late nineteenth century.86 All these writers have created images of Vivekananda and Aurobindo that stand in contrast to the simplified and sacrosanct versions of the pious and the politicians. Where in the midst of all this are the real Vivekananda and Aurobindo? - 

Why change needs to be evangelised, not enforced. My piece today in the TOI - - September 21, 2015, 8:50 AM IST Santosh Desai
The ban seeks to excise behaviors or perspectives that are inconvenient- rather than deal with the messiness of divergence, it is simply removed. It seems that opinions, whatever they might be, are increasingly wielded like hammers that are slammed down on us, leaving little wiggle room for any discussion. [...]

What is rarely seen is the old fashioned attempt to evangelise or market one’s point of view. To evangelise is to believe strongly in one’s own view, but to simultaneously acknowledge that the other person does not share the same belief. The attempt is to find ways of communicating what one finds compelling about the idea to the other, by understanding where the other person comes from and in trying to build a persuasive bridge that allows them to cross over to this side. There is both an implicit arrogance (in the absoluteness of one’s belief) and a certain humility (acknowledging that others may not share this belief) involved in the process. Missionaries employ this method and do so by investing an enormous amount of themselves in the process- years are spent living in remote and unfamiliar areas in the pursuit of their beliefs. 

Most modern religions and ideologies have at least in part, been spread by ambassadors travelling around spreading the word, prevailing upon people to see value in their espoused way. The Gandhian method of resistance relied heavily on being able to promote his ideas, many of them quite radical and dramatically at odds with the dominant ideas of the day, widely to large sections of the Indian population. By articulating his ideas in writing and in speech, by engaging in detailed discussions with all those who wrote to him, by travelling the length and breadth of the country and interacting with a wide cross-section of people, by converting ideas into symbols that captured the essence of his thinking, and by living by the otherwise abstract principles he espoused, Gandhi managed to rally a very large and diverse set of people around decidedly unconventional ideas.

But today, that kind of patience and openness is increasingly difficult to muster up. Opinions held by any group are presumed to represent universal truths and become inviolable benchmarks against which words and actions of others are measured. When these are found wanting, the other side is attacked ruthlessly. Neither tradition nor modernity are being evangelized, and the same is true for economic reforms or social change. [...]

Perhaps there is something to learn from a very different world- that of advertising. Here, every new idea is presented with great fanfare to those that might be persuaded to choose it. Every effort is made to cater to the desires of the audience and to answer the questions it might have. There might be many things wrong in the way advertising is practiced, but the potential buyer always comes first, and is catered to with great humility. Ideas, however self-evident in their correctness they might seem to some, need to be marketed, not enforced. The true evangelist believes in the idea that is being sold, but believes in our right not to be persuaded even more.

How important is it for a country to reimagine its past? Today in the TOI : The past as anchor for our present?: - September 27, 2015, 9:35 PM IST Santosh Desai
Current evidence suggests that the answer seems to be to largely focused on using a combination of selective erasure and a differently imagined and remembered past. This is why there is such great interest in acts of remembering our sense of history whether by renaming roads, institutions, creating new icons of the past, retelling histories, and creating new rituals. There is even greater interest in dismantling the aura around the icons of the past, for the priority seems to be one of replacement and not mere augmentation.

The belief that all wisdom resided in the past, and that going back to it would reveal all answers has consequences. [...] Any system of knowledge needs scholarship, rigour, original ways of thinking and intellectual honesty, only then can it take root, grow and become relevant to changing times. It can begin in a new place, it can challenge existing precepts and constructs, it can propose radically new ways of seeing the world, it can hope to create an alternative ecosystem of ideas, but in order to do so it must be a product of introspection and must subject itself to scrutiny and criticism, for only then it can create something robust and meaningful.

A new post on The Middle Stage: "The Indian Novel as an agent of History" -
In the great diversity of narrative forms and interpretative cruxes generated by the Indian novel, there lies a wealth of wisdom about Indian history and, therefore, about how to live in the present time as an Indian and a South Asian, a modern of the twenty-first century and a third- or fourth-generation denizen of the often disorienting age of democracy. Consider Fakir Mohan Senapati’s enormously sly, satirical, and light-footed novel Six Acres and a Third, written in Odia in 1902 and only translated into English in 2006. [...]

The novel form possesses certain advantages over other forms of discursive prose as a lens on history. There’s the persuasive power and ambiguity of a story, which may be read in many ways and asks for the partnership of the reader in the unpacking of its meanings. The freedom to rove in spaces of the past that we cannot access by means other than that of the imagination. The potential to think not in a straight line but dialectically in exchanges between characters, or switches in perspective between the narrator and the characters. All of these make the space of the novel a particularly fertile ground for historical thinking.

In fact, when they are themselves reinserted into the canvas of Indian history, the projects of the Indian novel and that of Indian democracy – both fairly new forms in Indian history – appear uncannily similar, and perhaps similarly unfinished. As Indian democracy has, over the past seven decades, sought to fashion a new social contract in a deeply hierarchical civilization, so the great Indian novel has attempted to not just find but to also form a new kind of reader/citizen, alive to both the iniquities and the redemptive potential of Indian history. Posted by Chandrahas  - 7:40 PM

Whither Odia Ghazal? - Shyamanuja 
Beyond the basic poetic construction, #Akshaya Mohanty has always kept his ghazals in the true spirit of ghazal. They are always pessimistic, defeatist, hopeless, self-blaming…in the classic tradition of Urdu ghazals.
It is really a pity that most of his ghazals are not available in recorded form. Recordings of some of his private sessions prop up here and there and listening to them convinces one how much he internalized even ghazal gayaki. It is intriguing why he did not record them for public.
After Khoka Bhai, the only good ghazal album that was released for public was by Subhash Dash. Simply called Odia Ghazals, this album, based on songs penned by poet Laxmidhar Nayak, was released by Saregama. Dash sang all the songs that were taken from poet Nayak’s ghazal compilation book, Ghazal Jharna. at 3:38 PM › Arts › Books › Umberto Eco Nov 27, 2011 - 'I am reaching the end of my ordeal," says Umberto Eco when we meet. Happily, I don't take this personally. Eco – philosopher, semiotician ...

"Sometimes I say I hate The Name of the Rose," he admits, "because the following books maybe were better. But it happens to many writers. Gabriel García Márquez can write 50 books, but he will be remembered always for Cien Años de Soledad [One Hundred Years of Solitude]. Every time I publish a new novel, sales of The Name of the Rose go up. What is the reaction? 'Ah, a new book of Eco. But I have never read The Name of the Rose.' Which, by the way, costs less because it is in paperback." He laughs, as he does frequently. Eco's great virtue is that he is an intellectual who doesn't take himself too seriously. Life, like fiction, is a wonderful game.

It is claimed that he called the film of The Name of the Rose a travesty, but that seems unlikely. He says only that a film cannot do everything a book can. "A book like this is a club sandwich, with turkey, salami, tomato, cheese, lettuce. And the movie is obliged to choose only the lettuce or the cheese, eliminating everything else – the theological side, the political side. It's a nice movie. I was told that a girl entered a bookstore and seeing the books said: 'Oh, they have already made a book out of it.'" More laughter.

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