Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hinduism in its brahminical construct is as pernicious, if not more, as it is in its Hindutva avatar

ARTICLES OF FAITH — Religion, Secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court: Ronojoy Sen; Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, ... SHAIKH MUJIBUR REHMAN
As the contemporary Indian political folklore suggests, secularism as state ideology has become contentious ever since Hindutva emerged as a major political plank. For the academia, the history of the contentious nature of this debate is somewhat older, and intriguing. What is, however, striking is that the political and academic streams of discourse have employed two different connotations of secularism. The political strand focussed on the fairness of the way the concept is applied in practice, with one section even accusing the state of being biased towards the minorities, particularly Muslims. On the other hand, the academic discourse stressed mostly on its genesis and on questions such as whether it is Western or Indian in origin. While both allude to the part the Supreme Court of India has been playing in this area, citing its different verdicts wherever necessary, there has been no systematic research into its proactive role. This book fills this vacuum quite comfortably.
On landmark cases
How the Supreme Court has been addressing the issues related to Hinduism and minority religions such as Islam is discussed extensively under different heads. In each chapter, considerable space is devoted to analysing the landmark cases that have a definitive bearing on Indian secularism. Among the significant points the author makes in his multi-layered argument is that the judicial verdicts are, in some measure, reflective of the dominant personalities of the court at a given time. In fact, the chapter titled, “Judging Religion: A Nehruvian In Court,” is entirely about P.B. Gajendragadkar, who served as the Chief Justice of India during the 1960s, and his was a dominant voice in matters of religion. Going by the manner in which the public debate and political campaign have proceeded in the area of secularism, there is a perception that the state’s relationship with minority religions, particularly Islam, needs to be grasped sensibly in order to make sense of its practices. In an attempt to depart from this dominant perception, the author devotes two chapters to discussing how the Supreme Court has been shaping the country’s political portrait and, in the process, created a lot of confusion about the connotations of ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hindutva’. According to him, the confusion is partly due to the absence of Gandhian view of Hinduism in judicial discourse. He needs to have also noted that Hinduism in non-Hindutva sense is not completely compatible with the idea of tolerance. In fact, Dalit scholars such as Gopal Guru, Kancha Ilaiah, and Gail Omvedt consider that the idea of Hinduism in its brahminical construct is as pernicious, if not more, as it is in its Hindutva avatar.
Deviating from the conventional path, the author suggests that secularism needs to be visualised in a broader relationship not just with Islam but also with Hinduism. He devotes substantial space to the issue of minorities and Islam, with one chapter dealing exclusively with the question of Uniform Civil Code, one of the most contentious issues figuring in the secularism debate. This well-written chapter, however, could have profited from a discussion on the drafts that various civil society groups based in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Pune have been working on since the later part of the 1980s.
Viewed in the context of the vicious communal attacks witnessed in Kandhamal recently, where Christians were the target, the valuable insights offered into the way the courts have handled conversion-related issues acquire special relevance. How the Indian state grapples with religious conversion is, as the author says — and rightly so —“in many ways very central to the constitutional experiment with secularism.” Equally noteworthy is the chapter that deals with minority rights in running educational institutions.
This book, however, is not about the “unfettered role of religion and religious practices.” While discussing the core dimension of Indian secularism, he suggests that the court “rethink its language of uniformity in favour of one accommodative of religious and legal pluralism.” Otherwise, he warns, religion and faith could be hijacked by religious fundamentalists. The book, the core of which is a product of the author’s doctoral work, has further enriched the wealth of scholarship on secularism. In addition, it should serve as a valuable source for students of law and Indian politics. ARTICLES OF FAITH — Religion, Secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court: Ronojoy Sen; Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 675.

A precise cut Shylashri ShankarFE Home
Sunday, Jan 31, 2010
Understanding the role of religion in society and the effect of judicial intervention on a country’s polity is vitally important today, says Ronojoy Sen in Articles of Faith. True, but how does one write in an interesting fashion about a topic (court judgments on secularism) that has been over-analysed? The lateness of the author’s entry is a function of the process where the transformation of a Ph.D thesis (in his case from the University of Chicago) into a book takes years. The author, a journalist and a Visiting Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and the East West Centre in Washington DC, faces the insurmountab le challenge of introducing a fresh flavour to a jaded palate.
Ronojoy Sen’s driving question is: “how has the higher judiciary interpreted the right to freedom of religion, and, in turn, influenced the discourse on secularism and nationalism?” (p. xiii). He focuses on the Indian Supreme Court’s rulings on the constitutional Articles of Faith (25-30), a topic that has already been addressed by many scholars.
The book reviews landmark cases such as the 1966 Sastri Yagnapurushdasji vs Muldas Bhundardas, where the apex court defined Hinduism as a way of life; the Shirur Mutt case where the test for the essential practices of religion that qualified for constitutional protection was first proposed; the Aruna Roy vs Union of India ruling where the court made a distinction between religious instruction and religious education; the TMA Pai and other cases on the rights of minority educational institutions; the Stanislaus case that denied constitutional protection to a right to propagate; the Jasani case where courts enforced disincentives for converting out of Hinduism, and the Shah Bano and Sarla Mudgal cases where the court linked the uniform civil code with national unity, and the Hindutva judgment. The final chapter analyses the Nehruvian motivations for former chief justice PB Gajendragadkar’s judgments because he “is a key figure in the tendency to rationalise and ultimately homogenise Hinduism”. (p. xxxvi).
Ronojoy Sen’s argument, which mirrors previous arguments by other scholars, is that the court’s rulings have homogenised and rationalised religion and religious practices, especially in Hinduism, along the lines of “classical or high Hinduism that originated with the 19th century reformation of Hinduism” (p. xxxii). The court’s emphasis on an inclusivist form of Hinduism, the author argues, led inexorably to the Hindutva judgment where the court conflated inclusivist forms with an exclusivist version of Hinduism promoted by Hindu nationalists. Like Derrett and many others, the author argues that the inclusivist discourse failed to take into account the pluralist nature of Hinduism and instead created a monolithic version of Hinduism.
Through an analysis of the main positions in the Constituent Assembly debates, he traces the muddy contours of secularism in India. He argues that the Nehruvian formulation of secularism “won the day” but its oscillation between “sarvadharma sambhava (goodwill towards all religions) and dharma nirapekshata (religious neutrality)” (p. xxiv) later contributed to the legitimisation of an exclusivist Hindu nationalism within Hinduism.
However, Rononjoy Sen’s discussion of the relationship between the court and the political arena is unclear. At several points in the analysis, he seems to be arguing that the court influenced the political movement towards an exclusivist Hindu nationalism, and at other points he argues that the court’s ruling “was representative of the politics of a time when Hindu nationalists had acquired a legitimacy” (p.195). If so, Sen’s argument that the court’s propensity to homogenise Hinduism in the name of modernisation led to an overlap with the Hindu nationalist agenda seems more a function of the inclination of the political elite. In response to such a critique, the author says “too much though should not be read into the judiciary being influenced by the ‘tides and currents’ of the time” (p.196). The author then goes on to cite Rajeev Dhavan’s warning about analysing the behaviour of the court as being “technically unpredictable” (p.196). However, his discussion of chief justice Gajendra- gadkar’s rulings shows a symmetry between the desire of the elites in the judiciary and Parliament to bring about enormous changes in people’s habits, work, living patterns, moral conduct and world view, (p.194), but the fact that Gajendragadkar’s intellectual mentor was Jawaharlal Nehru implies that the court was influenced by the political elite rather than the other way around.
For the lay reader lost in a thicket of debates on secularism, the book provides a nifty summary of the main position, the patterns of the apex court’s rulings, and the historical sources of the judiciary’s position when it tries to balance “religious even-handedness on the one hand and religious reform on the other”. 
—The reviewer is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aesthetic pleasure is a learned and acquired skill that requires patience and perseverance

I believe that the expressive arts can bring young people much more than simply aesthetic pleasure. True, inculcating a cultural hobby is not an easy task. It requires patience and perseverance; aesthetic pleasure is a learned and acquired skill. Yet if music and dance are encouraged and validated by our school system, we would be doing our youth a big service. Yet in today’s busy world their value is readily sacrificed to accommodate, for example, extra science or maths lessons.
Let us assume that an important role of education would be to enable students to make sense of the world around them; to equip them to deal with reality. A very vital part of human experience is linked to the ‘senses’: we see, we feel, we touch. This experience might be difficult to put into words but is vital to our emotional well-being. It is often through these experiences, or maybe the memory of these experiences, that we collate our own conceptual tools; often it is these that determine our values, our goals, our aspirations.
Elliot W. Eisner, in the Art of Educational Evaluation summarises this caseas follows: “Each symbol system — maths, the sciences, art, music, literature, poetry and the like, functions as a means for conveying what one knows to others. Each system has unique capabilities. Each symbol system sets parameters upon what can be conceived and expressed.”
We often use the verb ‘to know’ in the educational context. The expressive arts constitute another way of ‘knowing’. Knowing how to be aware of any stimuli, be it tactile or social; knowing how to connect with various types of experiences; knowing how to distinguish nuances within a given context; knowing how to react to beauty; knowing how to pursue quality; knowing how to listen, not just with the ears, but with the mind.
These are the qualities that can, maybe, help our youth to deal with today’s pressured world. They are faced daily with unbelievable pressures. Choices supposed to bring freedom are sometimes terrifying. We are now faced with a situation where our youth are actually choosing death over life. The writer is founder of the Mumbai-based Sujaya Foundation
Sujaya Foundation is a five year old Mumbai-based not-for-profit organization. Our aim is to bridge the digital and linguistic divide through education. We offer educational services to underprivileged school-going children in the areas of Mathematics, Science, English and Computers and educational services in English and Computers to underprivileged youth. We then try and offer opportunities for employment in the BPO industry.
Our unique feature is that we are a niche NGO using the best pedagogical practices. The Foundation achieves this objective through a small dedicated team along with committed volunteers.
The aim of the Foundation is to provide education to the under-privileged by incorporating the best pedagogical practices at an Elementary as well as an Advanced Level. The Foundation attempts to bridge the gap for its students between education and employment.
While it is true that India's administrative language seems to be English it is also true that millions of young people are deprived to access to quality language skills in English. This automatically limits their opportunities in the labour market besides rendering them socially diffident and excluded. One of the objectives of Sujaya is to actively intervene through formal and non-formal educational activities to significantly improve the linguistic competence of bright, hardworking students who are trapped in an education system which does not teach English with a view to develop oral skills. Thereafter the foundation is committed to helping them secure a job.
Volunteers are an integral part of the progress and dynamic of Sujaya Foundation. Our volunteers come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, for instance even from the corporate world who have contributed immensely with their professional work ethic.
Sujaya Foundation, established in 2002, is registered under the Mumbai Public Trust Act, 1950. Its Board of Trustees comprises the following persons:
Name of Trustee                    Particulars
Ms. Neelambari Store Rao     Managing Trustee, Sujaya Foundation
Sister Felicity Morris              Managing Trustee, Prem Daan
Mr. Rajesh Pant                     Director, Kandor Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Mr. Gunit Chadha                  MD (India) and CEO, Deutsche Bank, India
Mr. Jaithirth Rao                    Chairman and CEO, Mphasis
Mr. Jagdish Moorjani             Chief Operating Officer, Citius IT Solutions Private Limited
The Managing Trustee of the Foundation is Ms. Neelambari Store Rao who has been in the field of education since 1982.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Politics is the finest form of management

 Biraja Mahapatra  View profile   More options Feb 8: Hi Campaigners, 

Today is the birth day of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The man/saint, who was poisoned five times in his life in the 19 century. The reason:- he was opposed to superstitions and an exponent of spread of education as the single most effective weapon to save the land from slavery and people from narrow mindset. 
Personally, as a student of history, I hold him in the highest esteem as compared to all other saints I know of. A good number of disciples he could create and they included Lala Lajpat Rai, Veer Savarkar and Hansraj and his immense faith in tradition gave us today more than 2000 educational institutions in the country. 
This is the biggest achievement for creating good citizens and people for the country. I can imagine how much he may have struggled for the soil and how much love he had in him for the people. This is what our Dharma teaches us. 
India must beacon light to the whole world not because of Hinduism but because of the Dharma which has been very succinctly explained by Swamiji in Beliefs and Disbeliefs. He said,
“I accept as Dharma whatever is in full conformity with impartial justice, truthfulness and the like; that which is not opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas. Whatever is not free from partiality and is unjust, partaking of untruth and the like, and opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas - that I hold as Adharma." 

Indian faith system has been built up over a period of thousands of years. So many risis and thought leaders have given so many ways for smooth survival of the humanity and those which withstood the test of time have been retained and those not have been discarded. Swami Dayanand was a great contribution of time and would remain alive in the minds of those who truly think of the country. 
That is why Sri Aurobindo had once said “I have seen so many saints sitting on the mountains of Himalayas but the one on which Swami Dayanand is sitting is the highest”. It is a true complement in deed that Swami Dayanand deserved as he was probably the first one to foresee a political India with samskara (the process of culture) as its true foundation and he relentlessly worked on it until his death. 
With love 
Biraja Mahapatra 

Build India Group (BIG), a Delhi-based civil society, campaigns for a citizen's pledge to the country. The organisation believes that if citizens across the country demonstratively pledge their love and loyalty in unison to the nation at an appointed time, then the electrifying moment arising out of it can be the best launcher of hate against terrorism and corruption. BIG is also working towards establishing a university of politics in India with the focus that politics is the finest form of management. It believes hating politics is a crime against democracy. If you agree with us, please join this unique movement. For details please log on to www.buildindiagroup.org.

A book titled My Call providing the roadmap for the organisation is available with linuxbazar. Here is the link you can log in or send to people to buy the book online using credit card, internet banking, cheque/dd, google checkout, paypal etc. http://www.linuxbazar.com/my-call-by-biraja-mahapatra-p-35178.html 
with love 
Biraja Mahapatra

Gain a deeper understanding of rural sensitivities of the country

 Home > About Fellowship > ICICI Fellows is a social leadership programme.

This programme nurtures the leader in you by enabling you to envision a future, mobilise people, thoughts and resources to create a brand new

It's the first ever comprehensive leadership programme in
India which has the right balance of management training, experiential learning and personality development.

It's a 2 year intensive, experiential learning programme that will equip you to take on any professional challenge. It will bring about a 360 degrees change in the way you think about the world, challenge your existing belief systems and redefine your ideologies.

At the end of 2 years, as an ICICI Fellow you will be a professional who will lead
India into a better tomorrow.

ICICI Fellows is structured to have 3 tightly interlinked components.

Management Training

The fellowship will commence with a one month management training programme designed by Institute of Financial Management & Research (IFMR), one of the leading business schools in
India. The principles learnt here will then be applied to development issues in a real world classroom - amidst the Niligiri Hills in South India.

Experiential Learning

As the entire programme is designed for you to gain a true pulse of the country, there are many modules which focus on experiential learning.

After the management training you will be deployed with a leading NGO in a managerial capacity anywhere in
India, to gain a deeper understanding of rural sensitivities of the country. Here, you will work closely with an experienced team of senior professionals from the organization on various issues faced by the local community. Every 6 months you will join other ICICI Fellows on a journey to far and wide corners of India - in the North east, amidst the Himalayas and in the Thar Desert. These outward journeys will bring you close to your inner self. And this will bring about an unfathomable self transformation.

Personal Development & Mentoring

At the beginning of the programme, you will be assigned a personal coach for a period of 2 years. The coach will interact with you on a fortnightly basis helping you put together a personal development plan, enabling you to achieve it and helping you overcome roadblocks in between. To shape the leaders in you, you will also be mentored regularly by senior professionals from the organisation.
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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Convergence of world markets and the internet has multiplied opportunities for scale-free networks

I would nominate the following as Hirschman books which must be read by economists: Exit, Voice and Loyalty (Harvard, 1970); The Passions and the Interests (Princeton, 1977); Rival Views of Market Society (Harvard, 1986); and A Propensity to Self-Subversion (Harvard, 1995).
I also developed a fascination with Kenneth Boulding during graduate school (some might think that was because I was able to be his student, but actually I was fascinated with Boulding prior to the opportunity to get to know him).  I first became enamored with Boulding through reading his 1971 essay "After Samuelson, Who Needs Smith?", but that quickly gave way to reading as much of his work as I could get my hands on.  Boulding also wrote profound books that were not particularly hefty.  My list of Boulding favorites would be: A Reconstruction of Economics (1950); The Image (1956); Conflict and Defense (1962); Evolutionary Economics (1981); and Three Faces of Power (1989).
But reading Boulding is a totally different experience than reading Hirshman. Boulding's argumentative style is more meandering, Hirschman's more direct… One of the thing that is striking about Hirschman is how he packs so much into such little space. 

Barabasi, A.-L. 2002. Linked: the New Science of Networks. Cambridge MA: Perseus.
Castells, M. 2001. The Internet Galaxy.
London: Oxford University Press.
Durkheim, E. 1965 (1912). The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.
Glencoe IL: Free Press.
Durkheim, E. and M. Mauss. 1963 (1903). Primitive Classification.
Chicago: University Press.
Gerratana, V. 1973. “Marx and Darwin.” New Left Review 82: 60-82.
Gladwell, M. 2000. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
New York: Little, Brown.
Granovetter, M. 1973. “The strength of weak ties.” American Journal of Sociology 78: 1360-1380.
I. 1990. The Taming of Chance. Cambridge: University Press.
Hart, K. 2000 The Memory Bank.
London: Profile Republished in 2001 as Money in an Unequal World. New York and London: Texere.
Lévi-Strauss, C. 1966 (1962). The Savage Mind.
Chicago: University Press.
Mauss, M. 1990 (1925). The Gift: form and reason of exchange in archaic societies.
London: Routledge.
Milgram, S. 1967. “The small world problem.” Psychology Today 2: 60-67.
Pareto, V. 1972 (1906). Manual of Political Economy.
London: Macmillan.
Spengler, O. 1962 [1918]. The Decline of the West (abridged edition).
New York: Alfred Knopf.
Taleb, N. 2007. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.
New York: Penguin.
Watts, D. 2003. Six Degrees: the Science of a Connected Age. London: Heinemann.
Watts, D. and Strogatz. 1998. “Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks.” Nature 393: 440-442.
Zipf, G. 1949 Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort.
Cambridge MA: Addison-Wesley.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Objects only have value insofar as they represent the mediator

As people will have already guessed, some of the theoretical basis of Philip Goodchild’s Theology of Money comes from Marx, in particular his The Power of Money fragment from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. From Roland Boer’s tireless work we are already aware of the depth of Marx’s engagement with theology – Engels, a keen biblical critic, and historian of early Christianity even more so. I just stumbled across the following passage from Comments on James Mill, Éléments D’économie Politique. Here Marx is discussing James Mill, the father of John Stewart Mill. Here is a short extract.

Mill very well expresses the essence of the matter in the form of a concept by characterising money as the medium of exchange. The essence of money is not, in the first place, that property is alienated in it, but that the mediating activity or movement, the human, social act by which man’s products mutually complement one another, is estranged from man and becomes the attribute of money, a material thing outside man. Since man alienates this mediating activity itself, he is active here only as a man who has lost himself and is dehumanised; the relation itself between things, man’s operation with them, becomes the operation of an entity outside man and above man. Owing to this alien mediator – instead of man himself being the mediator for man – man regards his will, his activity and his relation to other men as a power independent of him and them. His slavery, therefore, reaches its peak. It is clear that this mediator now becomes a real God, for the mediator is the real power over what it mediates to me. Its cult becomes an end in itself. Objects separated from this mediator have lost their value. Hence the objects only have value insofar as they represent the mediator, whereas originally it seemed that the mediator had value only insofar as it represented them. This reversal of the original relationship is inevitable. This mediator is therefore the lost, estranged essence of private property, private property which has become alienated, external to itself, just as it is the alienated species-activity of man, the externalised mediation between man’s production and man’s production. All the qualities which arise in the course of this activity are, therefore, transferred to this mediator. Hence man becomes the poorer as man, i.e., separated from this mediator, the richer this mediator becomes.

Christ represents originally: 1) men before God; 2) God for men; 3) men to man.
Similarly, money represents originally, in accordance with the idea of money: 1) private property for private property; 2) society for private property; 3) private property for society.

Time has arrived to transmit spiritual values in politics, diplomacy and economic development

Testing India's Democratic and Spiritual Legacies in Nepal Global Politician
Lok Nath Bhusal,
Ph.D. candidate - 2/5/2010

This article attempts to question and answer India’s role in Nepal in the deformation of the Maoist government and afterwards. The basic question is whether this role is consistent with India’s commitment to democratic and spiritual values, and the answer appears to be a huge NO. Embedding spiritualism into politics and diplomacy, I have argued for thinking beyond the conventional deceptive diplomatic and political mind by both the Indian establishment and Nepal’s Maoists in order to find a common policy space where both parties’ interests and aspirations are not dashed in Nepal.

What has been the role of
India in deforming the Maoist government and afterwards in the last seven months? Is that role consistent with India’s long-term commitment to the democratic principles and its global supremacy over spiritual values? When the soul has to speak, the definite answer would be the outright ‘NO’ for all the educated and uneducated equally. While political scientists have noted that democracy could only serve as an ideal proposition for many of the developing countries, many spiritual scientists have argued that mind and speech are deceptive oftentimes in social life and quite often in political life. That could be the precise reason many of the clever people go into politics, but the wise ones venture into searching for higher spiritual values. It is largely a matter of personal choice in terms of undertaking one of these routes, but such a choice has significant implications towards framing politics and diplomacy.

The ever increasing faith discourse in recent times (DFID, 2009) indicates that if the revival of the unity of religion and state is quite unlikely in an increasingly secularised world, an imminent possibility of the same between spiritualism and state would be unavoidable in the near future. Given its greatest spiritual tradition, as envisioned and portrayed by Aurobindo Ghose (1990), this unity would have to start from India, and this has been argued as the true destiny of India. India has produced both sorts of people, and has demonstrated its supremacy, especially in terms of its rich spiritual traditions globally. For the clever ones, India is the largest democracy, and for the wisest ones, it is a noble land. Do these Indian virtues, derived from the great Hindu civilisation and awe-inspiring democracy, feature in its recent policy approach to Nepal? […]

Truly, that dynamism would be a defining and an all-embracing manifestation towards creating a harmonious environment corollary to what the great Indian freedom fighter, metaphysicist and spiritual leader Aurobindo Ghose (1990) has articulated as the descend of divine grace and ascend of human aspirations for human Enlightenment in his Integral Yoga. While Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga portrays a patron-client relationship between the God and human beings in the pursuit of the ultimate goal, the future Indo-Nepal relations must be based on equality, and mutual understanding and respect. Certainly, the current relationships are disharmonious, asymmetric, self-serving, egoistic and bounded up by a number of deceptive, superficial and outward conventional theories of politics and diplomacy, but largely uninformed of our own harmonious and all-embracing spiritual legacies. In his essay entitled India and the New Millennium, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual follower Deshpande (2010) examines India’s diluted spiritual identity thus:

But what about today? Are we awake? Maybe we are just emerging out of the distasteful sleep of history. But we have not yet shed dullness of the night which is still weighing pretty heavily on our souls. We have not recovered our true national identity. We are still slaves of habit that has no business to persist. In every field of our current activity we want to be a la mode by following ideas and manners of the industrially advanced societies. We are apish. We are copyists, twice removed from reality; we are a copy of copy.

Indeed, it is striking to note here that while the West is importing
India’s spiritual affluences for greater harmony in their part of the world, Indians are imitating the mechanistically oversimplified theories from there and celebrating the mastery over those theories as a success. A deliberate fusion of the above two types of knowledge can only create harmony in our politics and diplomacy, and thus in our public life. Asserting harmony and not strife as the law of spiritual living, Aurobindo Ghose (1933) in his Letters on Yoga has argued the following harmony:

For the spiritual life the harmony with others must be founded not on mental and vital affinities, but on the divine consciousness and the union with the Divine. When one feels the Divine and feels others in the Divine, then the real harmony comes. Meanwhile what there can be is the goodwill and unity founded on the feeling of a common divine goal and the sense of being all children of the Mother... Real harmony can come only from a psychic or a spiritual basis.

Then, isn’t it possible to derive some lights from our own infinitely imperishable and profoundest spiritual tradition in designing our politics and diplomacy? In other words, can spiritual values in Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysics challenge the recent challenges in Indo-Nepal relations? […]

As the Indian leadership and the Maoists appear not to have the divine consciousness, it is crucial to spiritualise politics and diplomacy by the both actors for the all-encompassing harmony. Aurobindo Ghose (ibid) further argues that ‘all jealousy, strife, hatred, aversion, rancour and other evil vital feelings should be abandoned, for they can be no part of the spiritual life’. He has also extended this for public life. Certainly, performing certain rituals in private life is not going to lead towards purification and divine perfection in the body, mind and life, as argued by the Buddha and Sri Aurobindo. Then, beyond the academic discourse on faith, and the preaching of ethical and moral rituals and spiritual values in private realms, now the time has arrived to transmit and crystallise these informal institutions into the formal institutions of politics, diplomacy and economic development. On the issue of India’s delayed development, he further argues that ‘if the majority of Indians had indeed made the whole of their lives religion [spiritual] in the true sense of the word, we should not be where we are now; it was because their public life became most irreligious, egoistic, self-seeking, materialistic that they fell’ (cited in Reddy, 2010). Indeed, these evil deeds are reflected in the pursuits of politics and diplomacy. Hence, lets think now beyond the black box to facilitate a non-dashing of Nepali aspirations and Indian interests. […]

2. Reddy (2010) has made the following synthesis on India’s past and future:
‘her first period was luminous with the discovery of the Spirit; her second completed the discovery of the Dharma; her third elaborated into detail the first simpler formulation of the Shastra; It is important to note that none of these periods was exclusive, the three elements were always present in different proportions. But after that there came a slow and steep decline, which came to a head in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This last phase was a brief but very disastrous period of the dwindling of that great fire of life; it seemed to be a moment of incipient disintegration. Outwardly it was marked by a political anarchy, which gave European adventure its chance, and inwardly by an increasing torpor of the creative spirit in religion and art. At this time, science and philosophy and intellectual knowledge had long been dead or petrified into mere scholasticism. It is evident that all this only pointed to a nadir of setting energy, the evening-time from which according to the Indian idea of the cycles a new age has to start. It was at this moment that the pressure of a superimposed European culture fell upon India and that made a reawakening necessary for its very survival’. Reawakening here should be understood as spiritualising both personal and public life. Lok Nath Bhusal is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics and International Business at Oxford Brookes University, UK. Contact: lbhusal@brookes.ac.uk.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Just as Sri Ramakrishna had been a living epitome of the Vedanta, so was Vivekananda of the national life

Sumit Sarkar raises an important question about the constructed nature of Vivekananda's nationalism. 'Vivekananda', argues Sarkar, 'then was not quite the 'patriot-prophet' who would soon be revered as patron saint by a whole generation of Swadeshi enthusiasts, revolutionary terrorists, and nationalists in general. Nivedita, who perhaps did more than anyone else, to promote this image of Vivekananda, herself recognized its partially constructed character: 'Just as Shri Ramakrishna, in fact without knowing any books, had been a living epitome of the Vedanta, so was Vivekananda of the national life. But of the theory of this he was unconscious. This interpretation however begs the all important question about the horizon of possibilities that was embedded within Vivekananda's thought which would make such constructions possible. […]

Before Vivekananda there were hesitant and indeterminate moves in this attempt at self-description. The subsequent chapters read the text of Vivekananda's neo-Hinduism as an attempt to construct the unity, history, morals, and the destiny of this national self. In the Conclusion, the question that is raised is in what sense could Vivekananda be regarded as a nationalist, i.e. what form of Hinduism needed to be preached so that a religious ideologue what from of Hinduism needed to be preached so that a religious ideologue like Vivekananda could find a place of pre-eminence in the annals of history as a nationalist and in what way could his religion become relevant in modern India.

I refer to the discourses of this outstanding commentator of neo-Hinduism as the principal text of this study, placing it in conjunction with the vast array of other writings on the subject of Hinduism. For the purpose of delimiting the object of enquiry, I have identified from the vast range of primary source materials only those writings that fall within the genre of commentaries and discourses, particularly essays and articles by both minor and major writers that appeared in the vernacular tracts, newspapers, and journals of Nineteenth-century Bengal. I have also concentrated more on the history of Vivekananda's life prior to his arrival at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago as , to my mind, it provides the context of Vivekananda's conversion from a Brahmo rationalist to a Hindu nationalist.

What he went on to proclaim at Chicago from 1893 was part of his articulation of nationalist ideology. His commentaries on Hinduism, which I have sought to study as part of the history of thought, are treated as a document, and his appearance in America as a form of performative utterance: an event in the history of the genesis of nationalism in nineteenth-century Bengal. The events prior to this appearance are treated as a foundation, an anterior condition for the appearance of neo-Hinduism. It also needs to be clarified that this is not a work that falls within the category of Indological studies as it does not attempt to say anything meaningful about the authenticity of Vivekananda's Hinduism, or to the extent that he followed classical texts, treatises, and doctrines. Questions pertaining to philology are omitted from the scope of the present study. For a work within the history of ideas it is a heuristic requirement to treat the discourse being analysed as a reasonably coherent set of ideas. For the sake of coherence whenever questions pertaining to philology or doxology have been raised, the study has confined itself only to materials available within the secondary literature.

Having undertaken a textual study I have sought to refer to memoirs, reminiscences, and biographies to provide the ground of interpretation and analysis of Vivekananda's texts. Particularly useful have been the autobiographies and biographies of Brahmo leaders and the monks of the Ramakrishna order, and the annals of Brahmo history, along with the historical documents of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, which provide useful insights into the formation of discursive strategies, enunciative modalities, and the formation of concepts within the religious discourses of the nineteenth century. For conceptual characterization I have relied on the secondary literature on ethnography, historical sociology, and political philosophy. For the vernacular tracts, I have chosen a method of transliteration from Bengali to English that has become an accepted method among social scientists. Diacritical marks have not been used. Sometimes I have had to use different editions of an author's work for his various writings because the relevant volumes in one standard edition were not readily accessible.

From the Jacket:
The birth and development of the Ramakrishna and Vivekananda reform movement was intimately associated with the growth of Indian nationalism…The Modernity which entered the cultural space of the colonial world recast old Hinduism in the form of the Brahmo Samaj movement. However, this modern reform agenda provoked opposition from conservative Hindus. It found wider acceptance only when it recast itself as part of Vivekananda's nationalist discours. This new nationalist idiom provided the forum for the reconciliation of the conservative and radical reformers. It also permitted the accommodation of the European Enlightenment values of rationality but without disturbing the ancient spirit of Hinduism.

This intellectual history will interest scholars of modern Indian history, religious studies, and cultural studies. About The Author: Shamita Basu teaches political science at the Vivekananda College for Women, Calcutta University. Religious Revivalism as Nationalist Discourse: Swami Vivekananda and New Hinduism in Nineteenth-Century Bengal by Shamita Basu (Oxford University Press: 2002); An exploration of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda tradition (Occasional paper) Sumit Sarkar