Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's a great pity that the dreams and the hopes of Sri Aurobindo are yet to be realised Apt title Comments:
The title you've selected for your magazine is a good one. After all, the earth is all that matters for human beings. Sri Aurobindo once said, "We bless.... this land of ours which has been even as a mother unto our nation. Blessed be this our own, our Motherland, which holds the promise of a far more glorious future for her sons than what has been theirs in the past...."

It's a great pity that the dreams and the hopes of Sri Aurobindo and millions of us who had fought for India's freedom are yet to be realised. After four decades, why is it that 80 per cent of our people have no access even to safe drinking water? Why are more than half our people illiterate and why do they live below the poverty line? Why is it that we are still one of the poorest countries in the world? We have to find answers to these questions. I do believe that your magazine will play a vital role in doing this.
Sender's name: H DEVADAS, New Delhi (Mar 30 2002 10:09AM)

Jun 1, 1994 - Journal of Religious Thought: Focuses on the work of Aurobindo Ghose and his philosophy regarding the place of spirituality in the evolution of human beings, dubbed as `world reconstruction.' Life of Sri Aurobindo; Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo; Sri Aurobindo and world reconstruction. From EBSCOhost Connection: Aurobindo Ghose and world... ($$)

Oct 7, 1995 - The Mother is based upon an extremely strange but true story of a European woman who became the partner (their relationship is far from clear) and successor of Sri Aurobindo, one of India's greatest spiritual teachers. After his death she took over as head of the ashram and, ... From Here's why Westerners are drawn to India Journey To Ithaca By Anita Desai Alfred A. Knopf, 312 pages, $32

Jan 20, 1997 - Sri Aurobindo and Sanskrit by Sampadananda Mishra; Institute of Research in Social Sciences, a unit of Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, India. There is no doubt that the Sanskrit language made a very deep inmpression on Sri Aurobindo. It might even be said the he approached the ... From Radio touts 210 million listeners weekly.... ($$)

Apr 12, 1998 - The Cambridge intellectual was none other than Sri Aurobindo, who took a first in classics, and then became guru to India's best known ashram. At least Sri Aurobindo was Indian. The self-appointed messiah was French. This was the woman known as the "Mother", whose kindly face stares ... From Creme caramel amidst the rickshaws

Nov 19, 1998 - VADODARA, Nov 18: A national seminar on `Aspects of the Constitution of India - Some Aurobindonian Perspectives' will be organised by the Sri Aurobindo Research Foundation, in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Work, MS University, on November 28. ...
From Seminar on Constitution

Dec 17, 1998 - There was also the Frenchwoman known simply as The Mother who presided over the devotees of Sri Aurobindo, a Bengali revolutionary who fled to French-ruled Pondicherry. The community flourished and expanded under The Mother's stewardship, with branches in every Indian city and hundreds ... From Sonia Gandhi's Foreign Chic Article from... ($$)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sri Aurobindo's opinions on socio-economic issues came out in "Bande Mataram"

Jinnah and Secularism: Crime of Jinnah By: Dr. Dipak Basu Aug-24-2009 Author's Home Page (The author is a Professor in International Economics in Nagasaki University, Japan)

Sri Aurobindo had advised Gandhi to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan to keep India united, but Gandhi asked Sri Aurobindo not to interfere in political matter. It is still a mystery why Gandhi wanted partition so much, that, according to BR Ambedkar, even in 1940, Gandhi had accepted the Pakistan-proposal and in 1943 in collaboration with Chakravarty Rajagopalachari, had drawn up a detail plan to partition India. Minority Institutions: Examining the Foundations
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He effortlessly and beatifically would look forward to this time and would take the mike to talk to students about the life and teachings of Sri Aurobindo. - Similar Lies, Like Beauty, Depend On the Eye of the ...
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Elst goes back to the basics by examining the works/sayings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Bankim, Swami Shraddhananda, Sri Aurobindo, - Similar We, The Living
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Sri Aurobindo's opinions on socio-economic issues came out in "Bande Mataram" from 1906 onwards before Gandhi's Hind Swaraj was published in 1909. - Similar India's Partition Caused By Nehru Or Jinnah?
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We have a great day and we feel on top of the world etc. therefore, beyond the biological body we have a 'mental" body that Sri Aurobindo describes in great - Similar Book Review : Changing Gods by Rudolf C Heredia
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Mauss can be seen as a “total social fact”

Marcel Mauss’s economic vision, 1920-25 from The Memory Bank

The First World War was more than a watershed; it was an irreversible fissure in modern European history. The state had acquired undreamt of powers in the course of the war: to mobilize and kill off huge armies, to control production and distribution, to monopolize propaganda; from now on it was a struggle between rival state forms for world domination. The claim of Western societies to lead the rest of humanity in reason and civilization had been mortally wounded by the senseless slaughter of the trenches. Life after the war was quite unlike what had gone before. Marcel Mauss, who admitted to a sense of relief when the war first allowed him to escape from his scholarly burdens, took his time to resume his academic and political activities. The death of Émile Durkheim and numerous colleagues during the war took some adjusting to, while some close friends told him it was now time to grow up. So, to a double life as a professor of the religions of uncivilized peoples in the marginal École pratique des hautes études and as a political activist-cum-dilettante, he now had to add responsibility for the movement launched by his uncle at a time when the sociology project still felt rather precarious.

Yet the years 1920-25 were packed and fruitful. Mauss’s political party and the Left in general had a real shot at winning power in France and did so in 1924. Two-thirds of his Écrits politiques (Marcel Fournier editor, 1994) were written in this period. He resumed teaching religion at the École pratique and was able to relaunch Année sociologique by the period’s end, contributing to it his most famous essay, on The Gift, “In memoriam: the unpublished work of Durkheim and his collaborators” (see Jane Guyer here) and a vast amount of work as editor and reviewer. He suffered some reverses at this time, including a serious illness, but remained optimistic for both political and intellectual regeneration on a social scale that was increasingly international in scope. He began serious work on a book dealing with the main political currents of the day, nationalism and socialism. His interest in the American “potlatch” was expanded by the publication of Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), confirming his belief that competitive gift-exchange was endemic in Melanesia and Polynesia, as well as elsewhere. And the Institut d’ethnologie was formed in 1925 with Rivet, Lévy-Bruhl and Mauss himself in charge.

In the late 1920s, things began to unravel on all fronts. Mauss’s personal standing as a savant grew inexorably; but his party suffered political reverses, its newspaper and journal folded, the cooperative movement foundered and, after a successor half-volume, the Année sociologique second series ended; his closest friend, Henri Hubert, died in 1927. The years 1920-25 stand apart for the energy and fulfillment they brought. Mauss himself kept a sort of Chinese wall between his academic and political interests; so it is not so surprising that the two have been kept apart, especially in the Anglophone world, where his political writings are virtually unknown (pace David Graeber, 2001). Mauss allowed himself one public attempt to bridge them, the concluding chapter of The Gift. Mary Douglas, in her Foreword to the second English edition, is rather dismissive of this chapter. For her, the essay should be seen as a great leap forward in anthropological science, theoretical forerunner of his Manual of Ethnography (Nick Allen editor, 2007) and a suitable launch of his career at the Institute: “his own attempt to use the theory of the gift to underpin social democracy was very weak…really jumping the gun” (1990:xv).

I have to agree that the essay itself does not provide an effective intellectual bridge between the two compartments of Mauss’s life. The Gift approaches the evolution of human exchange as moving through three stages: from a total exchange of services as in moiety systems, through competitive gift-exchange involving political leaders to individual contract, whose illumination (“the non-contractual element in the contract”) was the aim of Durkheim’s Division of Labour in Society (1893), itself the main source for Mauss’s essay. Yet any elaboration of what capitalist markets are really like or even a recapitulation of Durkheim’s main arguments are largely missing here. As a result, the programmatic conclusions float at some remove from the substance of the essay and his successors have been able to suppose that its point really is just to expose the “gift economy” to scholarly view. Mauss himself is responsible for the contrasting interpretations that his essay has generated. Hubert did not spare him at the time: “It is often rather vague…Are you really sure that the development of social insurance can be attached to your ‘human bedrock’, as you say?” (Fournier 2006:244).

So, why then take seriously the relationship between Mauss’s sociology and his politics? (Sylvain Dzimira, Marcel Mauss: savant et politique, 2007). Mauss, while tending to his uncle’s legacy, was making a profound break with the latter’s sociological reductionism in these years, opening himself to psychology and the humanities, while espousing a method of “total social facts” which underpins The Gift and figures prominently in those same conclusions. This was just one of the ways he responded to the war. Another was the shift to studying contemporary politics in his (ultimately abortive) “Nation” project. I have argued elsewhere that Mauss himself can be seen as a “total social fact” in ways that undoubtedly concerned him and might deserve our attention. I do not claim that his work is a seamless whole, just that it might pay to juxtapose his disparate efforts of this extraordinary period as a way of throwing new light on the meaning of his great essay for us today.

To that end, I propose here to examine his journalism in the years, 1920-25, with a view to isolating his views on economy at the time. I will then offer an interpretation of The Gift, particularly as it bears on markets and money, as well as the proposals offered by Mauss there for the management of our societies. The aim is a more integrated account of his economic vision, one that has resonance for our own crisis. We will see. Such an exercise goes to the heart of a persisting translation problem which partly accounts for the diverging traditions of Maussian scholarship that we hope to bring together in this conference.


Professor Amartya Sen has written a remarkable book, The Idea of Justice. Set the record right
Professor Sen: You have just written what could be the most important treatise in political philosophy of the first decade of this century. Please do us a favour and do yourself one. Do not praise the Left and confer on “adharmic anyayis” the respectability they do not deserve. - Jaithirth Rao Tags : jaithirthrao, column Posted: Friday, Aug 21, 2009. The writer divides his time between Mumbai, Lonavla and Bangalore

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Christians learn in Sunday school that their religion is true, and others are false

We Are All Hindus Now By Lisa Miller NEWSWEEK
Published Aug 15, 2009 From the magazine issue dated Aug 31, 2009

America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue to identify as Christian (still, that's the lowest percentage in American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu—or Muslim, or Jewish, or Wiccan—nation, either. A million-plus Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity.

The Rig Veda, the most ancient Hindu scripture, says this: "Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names." A Hindu believes there are many paths to God. Jesus is one way, the Qur'an is another, yoga practice is a third. None is better than any other; all are equal.

The most traditional, conservative Christians have not been taught to think like this. They learn in Sunday school that their religion is true, and others are false. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me."

Americans are no longer buying it. According to a 2008 Pew Forum survey, 65 percent of us believe that "many religions can lead to eternal life"—including 37 percent of white evangelicals, the group most likely to believe that salvation is theirs alone. Also, the number of people who seek spiritual truth outside church is growing. Thirty percent of Americans call themselves "spiritual, not religious," according to a 2009 NEWSWEEK Poll, up from 24 percent in 2005. Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American propensity for "the divine-deli-cafeteria religion" as "very much in the spirit of Hinduism. You're not picking and choosing from different religions, because they're all the same," he says. "It isn't about orthodoxy. It's about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great—and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that's great, too."

Then there's the question of what happens when you die. Christians traditionally believe that bodies and souls are sacred, that together they comprise the "self," and that at the end of time they will be reunited in the Resurrection. You need both, in other words, and you need them forever. Hindus believe no such thing. At death, the body burns on a pyre, while the spirit—where identity resides—escapes. In reincarnation, central to Hinduism, selves come back to earth again and again in different bodies. So here is another way in which Americans are becoming more Hindu: 24 percent of Americans say they believe in reincarnation, according to a 2008 Harris poll. So agnostic are we about the ultimate fates of our bodies that we're burning them—like Hindus—after death. More than a third of Americans now choose cremation, according to the Cremation Association of North America, up from 6 percent in 1975. "I do think the more spiritual role of religion tends to deemphasize some of the more starkly literal interpretations of the Resurrection," agrees Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard. So let us all say "om."

Institutions created by the Constitution could not develop the animation to keep them clean, creative and constructive

The Asian Age Unfulfilled dreams Deccan Chronicle 19 Aug 2009: OP-ED By Jagmohan

In a message to the nation, broadcast from the All-India Radio on August 15, 1947, Sri Aurobindo spoke about some of his dreams. He dreamt of a free and united country without which India could not fulfil her true destiny. But what the country got was Partition, accompanied by riots, rapes, plunder, loss of half-a-million lives and displacement of another one-and-a-half-million people. Sri Aurobindo had hoped that Partition would go. But it has not gone. Instead, the dimensions and depth of the dividing lines have increased. Terrorism, subversion, separatism and differences of caste and creed have made a dangerous headway.

The second dream which Sri Aurobindo entertained was that India, with a vast treasure of spirituality would become the epicentre for advancement of the "eternal religion" — Sanatana Dharma. But where is this religion to be found in India today? Who is preaching and practicing it? What, in fact, is seen all over the country, is an ever increasing tribe of "peddlers of arrant nonsense" who are draining out its core.

A moral chaos has engulfed the nation and the culture of corruption is spreading fast. Viewed as one of the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world, India now runs the risk of being destroyed by the virus of corruption in her politics, administration and economy.

As a class, India’s elected representatives are very similar to the description of a typical legislature given earlier by Sri Aurobindo: "He does not represent the soul of a people or its aspirations. What he does usually represent is all the average pettiness, selfishness, egoism, self-deception that is about him, and these he represents well enough, as well as a great deal of mental incompetence and moral conventionality, timidity and pretence. Great issues often come to him for decision, but he does not deal with them greatly; high words and noble ideas are on his lips, but they become rapidly the claptrap of a party".

Look at the Indian Parliament. What an uninspiring spectacle it is. The 14th Lok Sabha, for example, had about 100 members who were involved in criminal cases — 30 of whom had been charged with murder, dacoity, rape and extortion. Could an institution, dominated by such men and women, provide a national environment conducive to the realisation of Sri Aurobindo’s great vision?

The third dream of Sri Aurobindo was "a worldwide union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind". Such a union, he thought, was necessary not only because it was inherent in nature but also because its absence would imperil the freedom of smaller nations and threaten the security of bigger ones. He hoped that India would develop a "larger statesmanship" and play an effective role in this regard at the international level.

India, instead of playing a meaningful role in ushering in "a fair, bright and noble life for all mankind", has jumped on the bandwagon of those who, under the cover of globalisation, deregulation and other ingredients of neo-liberalism, are creating serious imbalances not only in the economy but also in the environment and ecology. In India itself, besides degradation and depletion of natural resources, wide disparities in income and lifestyle have come about.

Another dream of Sri Aurobindo pertained to the spiritual gifts which India was capable of delivering to the world. He had noted that Indian spirituality, its message as well as its psychic practices, were entering Europe and America. His hope was that this process, in times to come, would get enlarged. But this hope, too, does not seem to be materialising. Though yogic practices have made some headway, their overall impact has been marginal. The position with regard to spiritual teachings is even less reassuring. This is a natural outcome of the fact that India is now neither nursing her ancient nobility of temper nor developing a style of life based upon the fundamentals of her true spirituality. In light of the above analysis, a few crucial questions need to be answered.

  • How is it that all the dreams, mentioned by Sri Aurobindo in his Independence day message, have virtually disappeared from the collective memory of the nation?
  • Why did the steering wheel of India’s destiny remain only for a short time in the hands of those who were sensitive to the need for "giving expression to her long suppressed soul" and how did the same wheel soon come into the hands of those who have been wholly oblivious of such a need and are destroying practically every positive item of India’s heritage?

All this has happened because the post-1947 leadership by and large, failed to do what it should have done as top priority. It should have rekindled the power of the Indian mind, reawakened the purity of India’s soul and created a mental climate in which a rich crop of karamyogis could grow and a nobility-oriented culture emerge. Along with India’s Constitution and five-year plans for economic development, it could have formulated a national regeneration programme, by way of which the country should have been relieved of all the garbage that had collected in her courtyard during the long period of decay and degeneration of her civilisation, and at the same time dug out the buried treasures of her life-nurturing and life-elevating ideals towards which spiritual giants, such as Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo had repeatedly pointed their fingers.

The leadership should have realised that without providing inner energy, shakti, the institutions created by the Constitution could not develop the animation that was needed to keep them clean, creative and constructive.

As early as 1914, Sri Aurobindo, in a press interview, had significantly pointed out: "I am convinced that a spiritual awakening is the most important condition of our national greatness". Regrettably, such sane pieces of advice were all but ignored by the post-1947 leadership. The disastrous consequences of this lapse are that the moral fabric of society, weak as it already was, has been further shredded and Sri Aurobindo’s dreams remained elusive. Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We should thus be wary of any simplistic grand narrative of our identity as a nation

The Hindu : Magazine : India 62: Soaring high? A few eminent Indians tell us what they think are some of the significant achievements since Independence. Makarand Paranjape, Poet and Professor of English, Jawaharlal Nehru University

First of all, is India only 62? Some portions of us are much, much older, while others are not even 15 years old. That is why celebrating national birthdays each year may actually trivialise or detract from the more serious issue of who we really are. We should thus be wary of any simplistic grand narrative of our identity as a nation. But the real question in evaluating our achievements even in these 62 years is what yardsticks to apply?

If we invoke the idea of Svaraj so resonant during our freedom struggle, then we are still far from having achieved true “self rule”. We are not yet a nation of highly evolved, self-regulating citizens for whom the state is an almost unnecessary imposition. In addition, for Mahatma Gandhi a society or a nation had to be judged not by its greatest achievements in business, industry, or technology, but by how its poorest and least privileged members fared. Antodaya, the welfare of the last citizen of India, is still not our priority.

For Sri Aurobindo, a society, culture, or civilisation had to be judged by how developed its members were not just materially, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. That society or nation was successful whose citizens progressed integrally and found higher and higher levels of freedom and perfection. Today, who thinks of svaraj or self-realisation?

And yet, India’s accomplishments are considerable. Of these, I consider our new-found prosperity, even if it so uneven and iniquitous, a great achievement. What is equally important is the means to this prosperity, which is primarily knowledge or mindware. India has been both a prosperous country and a knowledge society for nearly 5000 years. But the colonial interlude brought us to unprecedented levels of degradation, poverty, and ignorance.

While notions of inferiority and mental colonialism still dog us, there is a gradual re-assertion of the genius of the common people of the land. Our ability to create wealth through the application of skills and knowledge is one of our great leaps forward as both a nation and a civilization. In addition, our democratic polity, combined with our plural, diverse, and largely free society are our greatest assets.

Sarah Abubakar, Kannada novelist

Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar were all products of a time when foreign universities were almost solely responsible for shaping the Indian intellect. That, a growing number of bright young people find academic enlightenment in our own country today, is the single most significant achievement of independent India. [...]

To make matters worse several state governments, in the pursuit of petty regional politics, are pushing for a vernacular medium of instruction. After all, which management, medicine, law or engineering textbook is written in Kannada or Tamil? These plans are only going to intellectually exclude those who are already financially excluded from the ‘education markets’. Those who want to remain in the race for education will have to own the two most valuable commodities in the Indian marketplace: money and the English language.

Rahul Bose, actor

The fact that we have a democratic secular constitution is probably our most effective step. We may have failed often in its implementation but definitely the drafting marked the significant step.
The C-DOT network conceptualised by Sam Pitroda during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure was significant. It’s the reason for a PCO in every village across the country.
Other significant moments were the National Rural Employment Guarantee schemes (NREGA), the Sarva Siksha Abhyan and the Mid-day meal Scheme. The right to information is probably the best legislation this country has ever had.
The right to food and the right to education are two acts that we can look forward. It is sad that we still have to define these basic rights of a human-being. Article 377 is a landmark this year. In a more general way the stepping in of the judiciary when state governments refused to react, though unprecedented, is extremely welcome. As told to Archana Subramanian

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sri Aurobindo conceived India as the mother, demanding obeisance from her children

SILIGURI: Independent India and the changing times Romit Bagchi
Posted by barunroy on August 15, 2009 FROM THE STATESMAN

The North Bengal University academia seems unanimous in the view that ‘Independence’ as a subjective sentiment has paled into irrelevance under the impact of the socio-political changes. They, however, differ over the causes as far as the blurring of the emotion associated with the most monumental event of India as a nation is concerned. The views might prove enlightening as the nation is all set to celebrate the 63rd Independence Day.

According to an eminent academician, Mr Haren Ghosh, the process is irreversible. “Time is supreme and nothing can escape its tyranny. The patriotic fervour keeps fading with time. The crusaders for national emancipation are now mere figures of history. People no longer identify with those giants. They personified freedom through peerless self-abnegation. They are no longer real and hence the Independence Day no longer evokes passion,” he opined.

But, a celebrated historian, Dr Anada Gopal Ghosh has held the rot prevailing in the political realm responsible for the singular lack of nationalistic exuberance. “The process started off with the ascendancy of the Nehruvian epoch in the political realm. Sri Aurobindo conceived India as the mother, demanding obeisance from her children, while Pundit Nehru envisaged the country as a physical conglomeration of several people. The Nehruvian thinking prevailed and this proved precursor to the era of election-oriented politics. The soul of perennial India seems to have been relegated to the periphery,” Prof Ghosh said.

Mr Suhash Roy Moulick, the senior most professor of the NBU English department, has ascribed the development to the invasion of the occidental culture into the Indian cultural ambience.India is an eternal phenomenon not because of her physical survival in course of history but because of the persistence of her luminous spiritual culture in course of her long existence. The eclipse of this culture means national decadence. And the preponderance of the alien culture seems to have dried up the fount of patriotic vivacity,” Mr Moulick commented.

India shed the yoke of British colonial rule on the 75th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo

New era in Indian politics The Statesman
Devaparna Das

August 15, 1947 was the day when India shed the yoke of British colonial rule and became a free nation. It coincided with the 75th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. He ushered in a new era in Indian politics in 1906 by declaring that complete and absolute independence from British rule was the aim of political action in India. What he espoused was adopted by the Indian National Congress in its resolution at the Lahore session in 1929.

In 1902 and 1904, he came into contact with revolutionary groups in Bengal and Maharashtra. But the partition of Bengal in 1905 engulfed the country in political turmoil. He started contributing articles anonymously to the Bengali newspaper by Yugantar. Sri Aurobindo resigned from Baroda College in 1906 to join the newly established National College in Kolkata as its principal. He joined as assistant editor of a new English daily called Bande Mataram launched by Bipin Chandra Pal and later assumed full control. In the same year, he persuaded the extremists of Bengal to organise themselves as the Nationalist Party collaborating with the group in Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Bande Mataram was adopted as the organ of the Nationalist Party. He evolved a programme for the Nationalist Party comprising non-cooperation, passive resistance, swadeshi, boycott and national education. He was arrested on charges of sedition for publication of some articles in Bande Mataram and was released on bail. But the prosecution failed to convict him for lack of concrete evidence.

The Indian National Congress was dominated by moderate leaders. A group of young leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal emerged who preached a radical form of nationalism. Sri Aurobindo met Tilak at the Ahmedabad session of the Congress in 1902. The nationalists succeeded in incorporating their four-fold programme of Swaraj, Swadeshi, boycott and national education into the resolution of the Congress despite the staunch opposition of the moderates. This was a major triumph for the nationalists as the word Swaraj appeared for the first time in the resolution of the Congress. But the Congress did not implement it. The stage was thus set for a confrontation between the moderates and the extremists at the Surat session of the Congress in 1907. Sri Aurobindo issued orders that led to dissolution of the Congress. The moderates suspended the Congress and replaced it by a national conference.

The nationalists assembled separately under the presidentship of Sri Aurobindo. After the split in the Congress, the government resorted to severe repression to crush the nationalists. But Sri Aurobindo gave them courage to endure. On 30 April, 1908 two youths hurled a bomb at a closed carriage that was supposed to carry DH Kingford, the district magistrate of Muzzafarpur in Bihar, but unfortunately the bomb killed two ladies. The police unearthed a bomb factory at Manicktolla in Kolkata. Sri Aurobindo and his brother Barindra were arrested along with several others. He spent one year in Alipore jail and was exonerated of all charges. He emerged from prison a transformed man. His work continued up to February 1910. All of a sudden, he left for Chandernagore and then proceeded to Pondicherry. He abruptly withdrew from politics to pursue Yoga. The writer is a freelance contributor

We are not totally committed to defeating the totally committed who would defeat us

The Conservative Disadvantage
We conservatives are at a certain disadvantage as compared to our leftist brethren. We don’t seek the meaning of our lives in the political sphere but in the private arena: in hobbies, sports, our jobs and professions, in ourselves, our families, friends, neighborhoods, communities, clubs and churches; in foot races and chess tournaments; in the particular pleasures of the quotidian round in all of their scandalous particularity.

We don't look to politics for meaning. Above all, we conservatives do not seek any transcendent meaning in the political sphere. We either deny that there is such a thing, or we seek it in religion, or in philosophy, or in meditation, or in such sorry substitutes as occultism. A conservative who denies that there is ‘pie in the sky’ will certainly not seek ‘pie in the future.’ He will not, like the leftist, look to a human future for redemption. He understands human nature, its real possibilities, and its real limits. He is impervious to utopian illusions. He will accept no ersatz soteriology.

A conservative could never write a book with the title, The Politics of Meaning. Politics for a conservative is more like garbage-collecting: it is a dirty job; somebody has to do; it would be better if nobody had to do it; and we should all lend a hand in getting the dirty job done. But there is little by way of meaning, immanent or transcendent, in garbage collecting and sewage disposal: these are things one gets out of the way so that meaningful activities can first begin.

I’m exaggerating a bit. To write is to exaggerate, as a Frenchman might put it, which amounts to a meta-exaggeration. But I’m exaggerating to make a serious point. We conservatives don’t look for meaning in all the wrong places. And because we don’t, we are at a certain disadvantage. We cannot bring the full measure of our energy and commitment to the political struggle. We don't even use the word 'struggle.' We are not totally committed to defeating the totally committed who would defeat us.

But now we need to become active. Not in the manner of the leftist who seeks meaning in activism for its own sake, but to defend ourselves and our values so that we can protect the private sphere from the Left's totalitarian encirclement. The conservative values of liberty and self-reliance and fiscal responsibility are under massive assault by the Obama administration, and there are indications that they are poised to clamp down on dissent. So if you value your life and liberty, you are well advised to inform yourself and take appropriate action. Posted at 12:37 PM in Conservatism, Leftism and Political Correctness, Politics TrackBack (0) Maverick Philosopher: In Praise of Blogosophyby Bill Vallicella 9:31 AM

Friday, August 14, 2009

Open debate about values and principles

Amartya Sen on justice: How to do it better The Economist
Aug 6th 2009 From The Economist print edition
In his study on how to create justice in a globalised world, Amartya Sen expounds on human aspiration and deprivation—and takes a swipe at John Rawls
The Idea of Justice. By Amartya Sen. Belknap Press; 496 pages; $29.95. Allen Lane; £25. Buy from,

AT THE disputed crossroads where economics and ethics meet stands Amartya Sen, a Nobel-prize-winning economist who thinks like a philosopher. In a dauntingly impressive flow of books and papers over 40 years he has done much to change both disciplines for the better, humanising the one, bringing content from the real world to the other. His work is technical, however, and the fine detail has sometimes hidden the shape of the whole. Mr Sen’s latest book answers both difficulties in magisterial style.

In the courtliest of tones, Mr Sen charges John Rawls, an American philosopher who died in 2002, with sending political thinkers up a tortuous blind alley. The Rawlsian project of trying to describe ideally just institutions is a distracting and ultimately fruitless way to think about social injustice, Mr Sen complains. Such a spirited attack against possibly the most influential English-speaking political philosopher of the past 100 years will alone excite attention.

“The Idea of Justice” serves also as a commanding summation of Mr Sen’s own work on economic reasoning and on the elements and measurement of human well-being. It is often intricate but never worthy. Conceptual subtleties flank blunt accounts of famine’s causes or physical handicap’s economic effects. A conviction that economists and philosophers are in business to improve the world burns on almost every page.

Mr Sen writes with dry wit, a feel for history and a relaxed cosmopolitanism. He presumes that the values in play are of global, not purely Western, import. Earlier thinkers he cites on justice and toleration come less from fourth-century Athens or 17th-century England than from India, where he was born 75 years ago. Growing up in Bengal, he learned about poverty and equality directly, not from books.

Two themes predominate: economic rationality and social injustice. Mr Sen approaches them alike. He can, when he wants, theorise without oxygen at any height. But he believes that theory, to be of use, must keep its feet on the ground. Modern theorists in his view have drifted too far from the actual world.

Economists have tended to content themselves with a laughably simple picture of human motivation, rationality and well-being. People are not purely self-interested. They care for others and observe social norms. They do not always reason “instrumentally”, seeking least-cost means to given ends. They question the point of their aims and the worth of their wants. Well-being, finally, has no single measure and is not inscrutable to others. Its elements are many and do not boil down to “utility” or some cash-value equivalent.

Complexity, though, need not breed mystery. Well-being’s diverse elements (freedom from hunger, disease, indignity and discrimination, to name four) are generally observable and, he believes, measurable. They are, to put it crudely, matters of fact, not taste, even if his philosophical story—that what underpins the several elements of well-being is that they all extend people’s “capabilities”—is still argued over.

Rawls held that social justice depended on having just institutions, whereas Mr Sen thinks that good social outcomes are what matter. Strictly both could be right. The practical brunt of Mr Sen’s criticism, however, is that just institutions do not ensure social justice. You can, in addition, recognise social injustices without knowing how a perfectly fair society would arrange or justify itself. Rawlsianism, though laudable in spirit, is too theoretical, and has distracted political philosophers from corrigible ills in the actual world.

Other arguments feed Mr Sen’s main themes. For example, that social-choice theory (how to gauge a society’s welfare from that of its members) permits good-enough, albeit incomplete, social comparisons. Also that the inevitable fact that moral judgments are made from a viewpoint does not make moral values local or subjective; that when talking of equality, you must always ask “equality of what?”; that rights carry extra weight without necessarily outweighing every concern; that justice’s demands outrun countries’ borders.

Tying the whole together is Mr Sen’s confidence that, though values are complex, economics provides tools for thinking clearly about complexity. “The Idea of Justice” is a feast, though perhaps not one to be consumed at a single sitting.

Virtually every claim Mr Sen makes will be objected to by someone. Right-wingers who follow Friedrich Hayek or James Buchanan will treat “social justice” and “social choice” as nonsenses. Mr Sen wants to humanise canons of “maximising” rationality; behavioural economists, much in fashion, aim to ditch them altogether. Rawlsian liberals will rally to the defence of their hero. Nobody, however, can reasonably complain any longer that they do not see how the parts of Mr Sen’s grand enterprise fit together.

His hero is Adam Smith: not the Smith of free-market legend, but the father of political economy who grasped the force of moral constraint and the value of sociability. To encapsulate the shift in attitude that Mr Sen has sought to bring about, ethics and economics are to be seen as Smith saw them: not two subjects, but one.

Mr Sen ends, suitably, with democracy. It can take many institutional forms, he says. But none succeeds without open debate about values and principles. To that vital element in public reason, as he calls it, “The Idea of Justice” is a contribution of the highest rank.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

In Praise of Lobbying

Lobbying Is Democracy in Action Robert J. Samuelson
We're a collection of special interests. If people can't organize to influence the government, then democracy is dead.
Published Dec 13, 2008 Newsweek From the magazine issue dated Dec 22, 2008

Lobbyists have a bad rap, which is why politicians routinely vilify them. Denouncing them is an uncontested rhetorical lay-up. People want to blame their discontents on a conspiracy of sleazy influence merchants. Periodic scandals confirm the stereotypes: the Jack Abramoffs who wine and dine legislators, or the congressmen like Duke Cunningham who took bribes from government contractors and steered federal funds to them. But mainly the anti-lobbying bias is popular mythology.

Myth No. 1 is that lobbying is antidemocratic because it frustrates "the will of the people." Just the opposite is true: lobbying is an expression of democracy.

We are a collection of special interests, and one person's special interest is another's job or moral crusade. If people can't organize to influence government—to muzzle or shape its powers—then democracy is dead. The "will of the people" is rarely observable, because people disagree and have inconsistent desires. Of course, the "public good" should always triumph, but what represents the public good is usually debatable. The idea that the making of these choices should occur in a vacuum—delegated to an all-knowing political elite—is profoundly undemocratic. Lobbyists sharpen debate by providing an outlet for more constituencies and giving government more information.

A second myth is that lobbying favors the wealthy, including corporations, because only they can afford its cost. Government favors them and ignores the poor and middle class. Actually, the facts contradict that.

Sure, the wealthy extract privileges from government, but mainly they're its servants. The richest 10 percent of Americans pay about 55 percent of all federal taxes (and within that, the richest 1 percent pay 28 percent), says the Congressional Budget Office. About 60 percent of the $3 trillion federal budget goes for payments to individuals—mostly the poor and middle class. You can argue that the burdens and benefits should be greater, but if the rich were all-powerful, their taxes would be much lower. As for the poor and middle class, they do have powerful advocates. To name three: AARP for retirees and near retirees; the AFL-CIO for unionized workers; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for the poor.

A final myth is that lobbying consists mostly of privileged access to pivotal legislators or congressional staffers—and that campaign contributions buy that access. Of course, this happens, but it's not the main story.

"Lobbying is much more substantive and out in the open than its ugly caricature. Lobbyists primarily woo lawmakers with facts," wrote Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, a veteran lobbying reporter, in The Washington Post. If lawmakers "see merit in a position and there is a public outcry in its favor, that's the way they tend to vote." Lobbying is modern marketing: trying to transform a group's narrow interest into something perceived, rightly or wrongly, as serving the broad "public interest." Think, say, of federal subsidies for corn-based ethanol as successful lobbying.

In 2008, there are about 16,000 registered lobbyists—people with sufficient congressional contacts that they're required to report under the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, says the Center for Responsive Politics. That's up about 50 percent since 1998. But there are also hordes of public-relations consultants, advertising managers, Internet advisers, policy experts (at think tanks and elsewhere) who are primed to influence government—and a huge support staff including, for example, "line standers" who grab scarce spots at crucial congressional hearings for high-priced lawyers. When political scientist James Thurber of American University counted all these others, the size of the influence-lobbying complex ballooned to 261,000.

Under Obama, this complex will expand. No one can doubt that it can capture public policy for private purposes. Sometimes this involves largely hidden and discreet favors: budget "earmarks," tax breaks or regulatory preferences. Though large for recipients, most are small in the context of government (all earmarks total less than 1 percent of federal spending). What really matter are the major policies that determine government's overall size and direction. Lobbying ensures robust debate on these issues, and whether the ultimate outcome is for good or ill, it's democracy in action. © 2008 In Praise of Nepotism: A History of Family Enterprise from King David to George W. Bush (9780385493895): Adam Bellow

The Gift stands alone as an intellectual exercise

Marcel Mauss’s economic vision, 1920-25 from The Memory Bank

While The Gift stands alone as an intellectual exercise, when he wrote it Marcel Mauss was intensely active on all fronts at once, academic and political, in what turned out to be the peak years of his engagement with society, the early 1920s. Perhaps it is not essential to read his financial journalism in order to understand his greatest essay, written and published at exactly the same time. But I would argue that they are both indispensable to an effective grasp of the man. Certainly the dynamic understanding that he brought to the exchange rate crisis helps me to grasp why he was at once enthused by and critical of Malinowski’s account of the kula. Does it all add up to a coherent “economic vision”, placing Mauss on a par with Keynes or even Polanyi, with both of whom he has much in common? Perhaps not. But if we ask what relevance he might have to our own times of economic crisis, investigation of his essay in the context of his life and times would surely help us better to understand our own. In that sense, Mauss lives.

A postscript. Gillian Tett, a Financial Times journalist with a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge, has just published an extraordinary account of the economic crisis that has broken over the last two years, Fool’s Gold: How the bold dream of a small tribe at J.P. Morgan was corrupted by Wall Street greed and unleashed a catastrophe (Free Press, 2009). She tells the story of the specific origin of credit derivatives, their subsequent perversion and the financial disaster that they brought down on all our heads. She warned against the dangers of massive growth in the volume of “credit default swaps” and “collateral debt obligations” long before the crisis broke (and was chastised for doing so). Fool’s Gold is already a best-seller, but it is also, to my mind, the best contribution yet to public education about the economic crisis.

Tett’s account shares some of the qualities of Mauss’s journalism: forward-looking, analytical and personal, with a keen sense of history and a desire to educate the people. The common people of different nations may, thanks to her persistent and imaginative efforts, get to know better “how they can have control over themselves—without the use of words, formulas or myths”. She generously acknowledges her anthropological training, of which Mauss was undoubtedly the leading pioneer in his own country, as having given her the vision and method to see what most other professionals could not. The Année sociologique group shared a sense that intellectual progress was a result of and stimulus to social improvement. I like to think that Gillian Tett’s example shows how the two sides of Mauss’s endeavour, especially as he realized them in those crowded years after the war, might someday be brought together. Conference Mauss vivant, Cerisy, 13-20 June 2009

Libertarianism is a political philosophy which emphasizes the notion of virtue in selfishness

Petey Says: August 8th, 2009 at 9:03 am
Both Marxism and Libertarianism may sound great on paper, but the middle course between them actually produces the best long-term economic growth.
The idea of “Pro-Growth Progressivism” may be easy to mock, but it’s actually the correct answer to many, many questions.

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 9:19 am
A more accurate version of libertarian theory is that it is based upon an idiosyncratic view of inherent (and arguably metaphysical) individual human rights that is strongly oriented to property rights and is extremely American in historical origin and flavor. Sitting atop this view of individual rights—which itself is sufficient and requires no utilitarian elaboration—is a whole bunch of utilitarian justification for a libertarian sociopolitical organization built around the notions that said organization results in the greatest overall material and psychological benefit.

This theoretical basis has three great weaknesses: first, the notion of inherent individual rights is eminently contestable. Second, the almost exclusive emphasis on individual property rights is idiosyncratic and myopic. Third, the utilitarian arguments for the benefits of the resulting sociopolitical organization are extraordinarily simplistic and are as often as not disproved by empirical fact.

In practice, libertarianism is a political philosophy which emphasizes the notion of virtue in selfishness and has as its historical genesis the exceptional American experience. As such, it appeals mostly to white American males who are moderately above-average in intelligence, economically secure, independently-minded, and prefer simplistic theoretical constructs for making political and moral decisions. It validates their own affluence/privilege not by group affiliation, but by inherent individual merit; and it likewise superficially validates the poverty and lack of privilege of others not on the basis of group affiliation, but inherent fault. In this it mimics a meritocratic view, which allows the libertarian to congratulate himself on his lack of bigotry; but, in fact, it is a facade behind which his true bigotry hides.

In my opinion, sociologically it functions the same way that class-based theories of self-justifying privilege have functioned outside the US. It appropriates the American ideal of egalitarianism—indeed, that egalitarianism is so deeply buried in the American psyche is exactly the reason why libertarianism, and not a class-based theory of privilege, is dominant—as an integral portion of its self-rationalization of privilege. And, of course, it appropriates the American notion of individual human rights for the same purposes and then builds from this a theory that argues that the accumulation of wealth through commerce is the ultimate expression of human nature.

It is the apotheosis of middle-class merchant political philosophy. It is, therefore, aggressively and without self-awareness deeply middlebrow and so very, very American in all the worst senses. Also: see de Tocqueville. Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 9:31 am
BTW, libertarianism and Objecvtivism deeply intersect because they are two sides of a brightly-colored cereal box (with a prize inside!): epistemology on one side, political philosophy on the other. They’re intellectualism for bright twelve year-olds. Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 10:10 am Another way of looking at libertarianism is to see it as classic liberalism’s evil twin. It takes the liberal values of egalitarianism, individualism, and commerce and utilizes them as the foundation for a rationale for why a rancher, a banker, and merchant are, necessarily and by their own virtues, the political and cultural elites of a small, western US town who are able to organize the world around them as they see fit far away from the interference of those meddling much-more-powerful hoity-toities in the State capitols and on the East Coast. Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 11:26 am This careful blindness is precisely mimicked in libertarian philosophy. The poor, ruthlessly exploited by the greedy monopolistic rich, are either off-stage or delivered from their oppression by a brave individual acting on his own moral authority. Good will triumph! It’s a matter of faith and a very selectively blind worldview.

Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 12:04 pm
Pace Myles SG, so-called “classical liberalism” is not equivalent to libertarianism as it exists in contemporary America. That it is so equivalent is a conceit of libertarianism, a transparent attempt to obtain intellectual authority via political lineage, and has just about exactly the same relationship to real political history and theory as Rand’s Objectivism has to epistemology and the film Western has to actual history.

I think the thing that annoys me most about libertarians (and Randroids, not coincidentally) is that while they’re ostensibly intellectuals (in a relative sense, anyway, they at least have a considered political philosophy) they are, nevertheless, inveterate intellectual lightweights…and don’t know it. (But then, the same can be said of Yglesias and he has a fucking Harvard philosophy degree, so it seems to be a common ailment these days.) Keith M Ellis Says: August 8th, 2009 at 12:13 pm If anything, the intellectual well of classical liberalism is far more powerful, developed, and nuanced in Europe than it is in America.
I agree—and that’s why it is a very different thing than libertarianism. For the love of God, the average American libertarian has barely heard of Locke (much less Berlin) but has heard of, and possible read, Ayn Rand. You can probably count on two hands the number of “classical liberals” in Europe who’ve read Rand.
The supposed intellectual underpinnings of libertarianism are ex post facto rationalizations of a cultural ethos that is in every sense, pure Americana.

serial catowner Says: August 8th, 2009 at 10:00 am
An intelligent form of libertarianism is the American Constitution.
People are born with inalienable rights, but to secure these rights, we institute governments. To maintain these rights, we limit what the government can do and how it can do it.
Intelligent liberalism is intelligent libertarianism. Liberalism was, and ought to be, the destruction of oligarchic rule, monopolies, divine right, and inequality.
All of the claptrap about “capitalism”, “free enterprise” etc etc only has a place in the discussion to the extent that it is discussed in terms of what actually happens. Libertarians have a fantasy in which all of the socialistic improvements of our society are preserved as a gift to the oligarchy they were born into, and that’s what it is- a fantasy: Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.
“Liberals”, OTOH, often fantasize that the government can improve people’s lives by telling them not to drink or smoke, but not allowing people the freedoms of religion, speech, and other securities of liberty found in the Bill of Rights. The result, unsurprisingly, has been Prohibition, repealed in the case of alcohol but supported (to their everlasting shame) by many “Liberals” in the case of drugs. The evils spawned by this holier-than-thou attitude are too numerous to list here, but surely the establishment of monopolies and oligarchies by the “ethical” pharmaceutical industry deserve a special mention as being intensely antithetical to the real practice of liberalism.
Justice Black summed it up nicely, saying “When the Constitution says the Congress shall make no law respecting the practice of religion, it means the Congress shall make NO law respecting the practice of religion”.
There’s your “strict constructionism”.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fresh Air Fund gives thousands of inner-city children the priceless gift of fun

from Sara Wilson date 7 August 2009 00:55 Social Media News Release
Friendly Town Locations News Facts Host a Child Donate Banners & Buttons About The Fresh Air Fund Embeddable Videos Contacts Multimedia Elements Social Media Tags
There is still time to host in 2009! The Fresh Air Fund NEEDS hosts for August in these states:
Click on the map to inquire about hosting
Connecticut Delaware Massachusetts Maine New Hampshire New Jersey New York Ontario Pennsylvania Rhode Island Virginia Vermont
Call (800) 367-0003 or
click here to fill out a host inquiry form.

News Facts
In 2008, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
The Fresh Air Fund relies on donations to provide memorable summers to NYC children.
The Fresh Air Fund needs hosts for the summer of 2009.

Host a Child Thanks to host families who open up their homes for up to two weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air vacations. More than 65% of all children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year.

Fresh Air Fund Host Families There is no such thing as a "typical" host family. If you have room in your home - and your heart - to host a child, you could be one too. Learn More
Fresh Air Fund Children
Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 12 years old, who reside in low-income communities in New York City and are eager to experience the simple pleasures of life outside the city.As one child says, "I can’t wait to get on the bus every summer so I can see my family and go swimming and hiking!"
You can give a child the experience of a lifetime with your gift to The Fresh Air Fund! Every year, The Fresh Air Fund gives thousands of inner-city children the priceless gift of fun – and opens the door to a lifetime of opportunities. Whether it's a two-week trip to visit a volunteer host family, or a fun-filled and educational stay at one of our camps, our programs make for unforgettable memories – and open a world of new friendships and fresh possibilities. We are a not-for-profit agency and depend on tax-deductible donations from people like you to keep our vital programs flourishing. Donate online now

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The rise and retreat of Sri Aurobindo

“Eclipse of the Hindu Nation” - Excerpt from Chapter 1 ... By B Shantanu

In this chapter, Dr Radha Rajan refers to Hindu tradition of statecraft and makes the distinction and connection between Hindu rashtra and Hindu rajya - the Hindu nation and the Hindu state. This chapter deals with the rise of Hindu nationalism, the decimation of the nationalists and - tragically - the rise and retreat of Aurobindo creating the space in the INC for Gandhi. *** Excerpt from “Eclipse of the Hindu Nation” ...

What is the Nation we want to be? (Part 2)
from Friends of BJP -- Because India Deserves Better by rajesh
by Amit Malviya

Possible Solution
Dr Subramanian Swamy on 19 Jul 09 speaking in Darmouth, Mass in US, advocated the concept of Brihad Virat Hindutava and argued its relevance to bring about a renaissance in the current secular India’s value system and thus create a unified patriotic and spiritual society. At present, he said, the Indian nation is slowly but surely sliding into a crass one-dimensional society of material pursuits which can lead to the nation’s Balkanisation.

Dr. Swamy was delivering the Special Public Lecture as guest of honour, to the delegates of the 18th International Congress on Vedanta held for three days at the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Dr. Swamy said that Hindu civilization has lasted so long, in fact the longest, is because it was a society that had found a blend and harmonization of material pursuits with spiritual values.

He further elaborated : “In the 19th century, Swami Vivekananda had propagated the concept of Brihad {Greater} Hindutva, while Sri Aurobindo and Veer Savarkar who had spoken from different perspectives, advocated a Virat [virile] Hindutva. All these revelations were made to the people in pre-political de-colonised India.

But unfortunately after becoming free, the academia and political power went into the hands of Marxists and Macaulayists who were determined to reduce the Hinduness of Indians to a minimum of acceptability labeling it as obscurantist and politically chauvinist, or communal and fundamentalist, and make out the concept as a danger to secularism. He said that the history of Hinduism disproves these charges, but the slander continues. Now to end the current moral degeneration in a democratic dispensation in India, he would advocate propagating a synthesis of Vedanta, Brihad and Virat concepts.

Dr. Swamy declared that time has come to confront the Marxist and Macaulayists and challenge them to a debate a new synthesis of Brihad Virat Hindutva if they dare to debate.

This is essentially a great concept but the challenge lies in implementing it without being perceived as exclusive and pro Hindu. The pseudo secular-communal divide in the country is so mis-propagated and wide that being pro nationalist and cultural is invariably seen as pro Hindu and hence not secular. This debate has gone on for far too long and is ingrained in people’s psyche now.

The challenge is to overcome this and instill cultural pride and feeling of patriotism in the people of India and build an inclusive spiritual society. The concept also needs to be articulated in simpler terms so that the common man can understand and relate it to his daily life. Unlike most ideologies it should be contemporary and progressive. This is easier said than done !
It would be great to hear what you think.

Auroville has a strange New Age vibe to it

Monday, 3 August 2009 Auroville: City of Dawn (or, Darwin + Indian Guru = Bizarre Experiment) Today, for example, we decided to visit the weird and wonderful place that is Auroville. Now what is Auroville? The answer to this question is rather long and circuitous.

Pondicherry is dominated by an Ashram that was begun by Sri Aurobindo and his greatest devotee, a Frenchwoman who became known simply as The Mother. These two developed a philosophy that built Indian philosophy into the theory of evolution. I am still hazy on the details (and who really understands how this philosophy really works…) but essentially the idea is that as man has been developing evolutionarily, his mind has also been developing a divine consciousness. They believe that we must continue this process of development so that we can reach our greatest potential as human beings.

To develop our divine consciousness, people need to spend a lot of time meditating, laboring hard, protecting the earth and living peacefully with their neighbors. These principles are taught at the ashram in Pondy. However, this ashram alone did not satisfy Aurobindo and The Mother. Thus, Auroville was born.

Auroville was conceived as an utopian new city, 10 km from Pondy, that would exist entirely according to these principles. In a way, this bizarre experiment has worked: 5000 people live there now, from all over the world, laboring hard with one another. There are no hierarchies and everything is done in the most sustainable manner possible. Basically, it is Berkeley on crack.

We walked around the center of Auroville today. The whole place has a strange New Age vibe to it. I am impressed by the way that Aurovillians earnestly attempt to live out their values. How many of us can say that we believe so firmly in our value system that we would be willing to devote our life to living them out? Still, the otherworldly nature of this place struck a strange chord with me.

We visited the soul of Auroville, the Matri Mandir, which is a giant gold globe that serves as a sacred meditation hall. Apparently inside everything is white, save the focal point, which is a crystal stone that reflects sunlight. We were not allowed to enter, but we did get to see it at a distance in the gardens.

While I enjoyed observing this experiment in alternative living, I am glad my feet are firmly planted in the messy real world and not in this artificial one. I would rather ameliorate the world as it exists, warts and all, than build a colony elsewhere. I also like the fact that multiple belief systems float around me - one way of life is not hegemonically imposed (at least not as obviously). I feel safe in this world where each of us can construct, tear apart and then reconstruct our own reality. Posted by LizSegran at 21:14