Saturday, 1 November 2014

Modi Sarkar: Politics through Culture

Ram Puniyani

The change in the ruling dispensation (May 2014) has more than one aspect which is likely to affect the very social-cultural-political map of India. Narendra Modi won the last elections with an electoral success, 282 seats for BJP, with 31% of votes polled, which is a landmark for a party. There was a meticulous planning to come to power and there were many factors bringing them to power. One was the communal polarization carried forward from the Gujarat carnage of 2002, to the one witnessed in Muzzafarnagar in 2013. The unrestrained support of Corporate World was another, as Modi had given all the facilities to the Corporate World. Corporate in 2007 declared that they will like to see Modi as the future Prime Minister of India. The backbone of the campaign was seven lakh RSS volunteers, who acted as the steel frame of the campaign. The projected factors helping BJP win was the myth of Gujarat’s development. The media management and the discrediting of the ruling Congress was the effective tool for swinging the votes in BJP’s favor. RSS-BJP-Modi want to bring in Hindu nation trampling upon the values of Indian Constitution., which have laid the foundation of democratic ethos, which have provided the ground for social transformation of caste-gender.

Pattern of Power

The previous time, 1999, BJP came to power at the head of a NDA it did not have the simple majority so it suspended its “Hindutva’ agenda. Hindutva agenda stands for abolition of article 370, Uniform Civil Codes and building of Ram Temple on the site where Babri Masjid stood. Now with the majority in parliament, the march towards this Hindutva agenda has been unleashed. Modi has already instilled the authoritarian streak in the new Government. Secretaries of different departments have been asked to directly report to him, and he has not permitted the meeting of the Cabinet in his absence, which was the norm with previous Governments. Though there is a Cabinet, the major power is being centralized around the prime minister.

Acche Din

The major plank of winning the elections was the slogan of Acche din (Good Times). The people at large, who are victims of the rising prices and inflation, were sold the dream of better days in the offing with victory of Modi. The relentless rise of prices despite Modi coming to power has created a sense of disillusion amongst the people, as high hopes were created through propaganda. Some say it is a bit too early to comment on this, as it is a honeymoon period, while others point to the pattern of policies, which do not give a hopeful picture for times to come. FDA in retail has been raised from 26% to 49% in a single swoop. While in opposition; BJP was opposing it. This is an opportunist turn around. The fear of privatization of public sector is very much there in the air. The amendments to Land Acquisition bill are going to affect the interests of the farmers in a very adverse way. What is being proposed is to dilute the consent of majority of the farmers for acquiring land.

Changed Dispensation: Sectarian mindset

Many times we express more by keeping silence than by speaking, so to say. The Pune techie Mohsin Sheikh’s murder allegedly by the Hindu Jagran Sena was part of the well designed communalization process. The violence in Saharanpur, Rampur and other parts of UP and some parts of MP are part of the process to communalize the assembly areas, which are going to face the polls soon. The silence of Prime Minister on these issues is more than eloquent. Rather it gives signal of sorts, which are not very healthy. There are scattered incidents which give us the glimpse of the Modi Sarkar. The shrewdest part of the new Government is that it has solid backing of vast Sangh Parivar to speak in different languages; these different tongues make the whole picture of their agenda. In case of the tennis star Sania Mirza being appointed as the brand ambassador of the newly formed Telangana state, the BJP leaders on TV openly opposed this saying that she is the daughter-in-law of Pakistan, while the top level functionary of the Government said that she is pride of the nation. 


All said and done the major problem of the present rule is going to be the changes in education, which will alter the thinking pattern of the coming generations. The goal is to instill a pattern in consonance with the Brahminical norms, to promote orthodox medieval mind set and to undermine the scientific temper. One recalls that in the previous BJP led NDA regime apart from other things, its major impact was the changes in the history and social science books, where the divisive history taught in the RSS shakhas, the communal history, the history where the kings are looked at through the prism of religion, was introduced. One knows that the communal historiography introduced by British was their main tool in implementing the ‘divide and rule’ policy which formed the ideology of the communal streams of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS. This type of history; by focusing on the glories of ‘our’ kings also promotes the feudal values of caste and gender hierarchy. Mercifully the BJP led NDA lost in 2004 and the rational, national historiography was brought back.

Now already there are signs that RSS volunteers are out to change the total education system and the content of history, social science and other books. Even before this Government came to power, with the rise of Modi on political firmament, with the perception that he is likely to come to power, the Right wing organizations intensified their offensive against genuine scholarship. Dinanath Batra, by now is a well known name, he has been heading the RSS outfits, Shiksha Bachao Abhiyan Samiti and RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from many decades. He succeeded in pressuring Penguin, the World’s largest publisher, to pulp Wendy Doniger's scholarly book ‘The Hindus: An Alternate History’. This book brings out through the interpretation of mythology the need to understand the caste and gender aspects in a sensitive manner. The history she has focused on goes against the hierarchical mind set of RSS combine and so pressure was put to pulp it. Now Mr. Batra emerges as a writer himself and a set of nine books written by him have been translated in to Gujarati and introduced in 42000 schools in Gujarat. This may be a trial run before doing similar things at larger scale.  Former BJP president and present union minister M Venkaiah Naidu explicitly stated as early as last year (June 23, 2013) that “it (the BJP) will change textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. Batra is also quoted as saying that a nationalistic education system has to be developed to address the requirements and through this we have to develop a young generation that is committed to Hindutva and nationalism”. 

The sampling of Batra’s books gives a good idea of what is in store for us. A quote from one of the set of books, ‘Tejonmaya Bharat’, (Radiant Bharat) tells us “America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like the Sun itself. When Gandhari, who had not been able to conceive for two years, learnt of this, she underwent an abortion. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this, he (Matapurkar) realized that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago. (Page 92-93)

Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti (divine vision). There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this… In Mahabharata, Sanjaya sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his divya shakti would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata… to the blind Dhritarashtra. (Page 64)  What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horses but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra-rath, what is today a motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this. (Page 60)

RSS has already set up a consultative body called Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) to put pressure on Modi’s government to “correct or Indianize” the national education system. In the new syllabus “The passages in the textbooks which pointed out to any unsavory aspect of the Hindu faith like the oppressive caste system in ancient Hindu society, untouchability of the low-caste people and consumption of beef during Vedic ages were scrapped, and anyone who resisted or opposed the changes was dubbed as 'anti-national'.(1)

Caste and Gender

While these changes in the text books give us a full idea of the agenda of this Government, which will have to follow the guidelines set by its parent organization, its already manifest in the appointment of Prof Y.Sudarshan Rao as the chief of ICHR. This national body guides the research into the Indian history. Prof Rao is not much known in the circles of Academic history, as he has hardly written any academic, peer reviewed papers or books. He has been engaged with writing few blogs on his understanding of history, which is more of a fiction suiting the agenda of Hindu Rashtra, reinstating the caste system in particular. In one of his blogs he emphasis that caste system served the society very well and there are no complaints against it. As per him “Most of the questionable social customs in the Indian society as pointed out by the English educated Indian intellectuals and the Western scholars could be traced to this period of Muslim rule in north India spanning over seven centuries.” He argues that “The (caste) system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it.” This is a distortion. The customs related to caste oppression were integral to the so called Hindu scriptures Vedas (Rig Veda, Purush Sukta) Upanishad, (2) the scriptures which were written in the Pre Historic BC period. Even in Manu smiriti the caste division is well articulated. Manu Smriti was written around 1-2 and Century AD. Contrary to this Prof Rao states that distortion in caste system came with the coming of Muslim Kings. He had so far been working on proving the historicity of our mythological Mahabharat as a part of History. Interestingly RSS combine presents only one version of Ramayan but there are nearly 400 versions of Ramayan. The scholarly essay by A.K.Ramanujam on the diversity of Ramayan telling again was withdrawn from Delhi University curriculum, and the publisher forced to withdraw the book. 

With the coming of this Government the peripheral elements have started talking about making these scriptures as a part of our curriculum. Justice Dave talks of bringing in Gita and others are talking of Ramayana. Both these holy tomes have heavy projections of caste. In Gita, Lord talks of taking birth whenever Dharma is in danger. And this Dharma is Varnashram Dharma (Varna system). In Ramayan Lord Ram kills Shambuk, as Shambuk a Shudra is doing penance and this is something not permitted by Caste system.

Fringe Elements or Division of Labor

VHP supremo and RSS member Ashok Singhal has also called Modi “an ideal swayamsevak” and emphatically declared that Muslims must respect the sentiments of the Hindu culture, threatening that “they cannot survive for long by opposing Hindus”. He has also asked Muslims to give up their claims on Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. The idea is to reduce Muslims to second class citizens with no privileges and rights. Another firebrand VHP leader Pravin Togadia, known for his ‘hate speeches’, has endorsed these views by issuing a warning to the Muslims, saying they may have forgotten the 2002 Gujarat riots but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year. (3) 

Goa's deputy chief minister Francis D'Souza apologized for his comment that India was already a Hindu nation. This was a tactical retreat. He was the one who said that all Indians are Hindus. Christians are Christian Hindus for example. Deepak Dhavalikar another BJP member stated that under Modi India will become a Hindu Rashtra. This is what the deeper part of RSS-BJP-Modi agenda, to see that the religious minorities adopt the Brahminical Hindu norms. That’s why they want that to use terms like Christian Hindus or Ahmadiya Hindus. Gradually, the assertion will be that since you are a Hindu you must practice Hindu norms. 

On the long term agenda of RSS-BJP-Modi one needs to see the statement of RSS worker Joshi,   “During a question-and-answer session, a volunteer asked Yadavrao Joshi, then the head of Sangh workers across all of south India, “We say RSS is a Hindu organisation. We say we are a Hindu nation, India belongs to Hindus. We also say in the same breath that Muslims and Christians are welcome to follow their faith and that they are welcome to remain as they are so long as they love this country. Why do we have to give this concession? Why don’t we be very clear that they have no place if we are a Hindu country?” Joshi replied “As of now, RSS and Hindu society are not strong enough to say clearly to Muslims and Christians that if you want to live in India, convert to Hinduism. Either convert or perish. But when the Hindu society and RSS will become strong enough we will tell them that if you want to live in India and if you love this country, you accept that some generations earlier you were Hindus and come back to the Hindu fold.”  (4) 

So where are we heading to becomes clear in the last few weeks of Modi Sarkar. The government will be trying to stick to the language which will be subtle while undertaking steps in Hinduization. Its associates, VHP-RSS will tell us bluntly about their agenda. Needless to repeat that this agenda, being unfolded is that of Hindu nation, where religious minorities will be relegated to secondary position  and the Chaturvarnya system will be slipped in a subtle manner.


1.       (
3.      (Modi and Hindutva footprints - Editorial, Kashmir Times Kashmir Times - Monday, July 28, 2014)

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Friday, 17 October 2014

History of Materialism in India

Th. Stcherbatsky

Amidst the diverse philosophical systems which we find in India, ancient as well as modern, it is quite natural that there must have been some materialistic system too. Their main approach lies in reducing all the psychic processses to physical ones, negating the independent existence of soul, and affirming that the so-called soul is simply one of the properties of organized matter. This is philosophical materialism.

Th. Stcherbatsky
Another approach that we find in India is that of raising the practical question of the aim of human life and of the prevalence of material aims therein. Here, materialism is distinguished from all other trends by the fact that it negates the law of so-called karma, ie, retribution for good or bad works. The greater abstraction of the Indian mind, as compared with other ancient civilizations is expressed int he fact that there the moral law is not embodies in the person of God, the judge, but in the form of impersonal karma which may be characterized as the law of moral progress, as the faith in the fact that the world is rules bya special mechanism directing it evolution from the forms of low and unjust to good and perfection.

This law is fully negated by the extreme Indian mate­rialists. Nowhere, perhaps, has the spirit of negation of and resentment to the fetters of traditional morals and the religion connected thereto been expressed so clearly as among the Indian materialists. This is evidenced, for instance, by the following verses of Indian materialism.
The Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetic's three staves, and smearing oneself with ashes,-
Brhaspati says, these are but means of livelihood for those who have no manliness nor sense.[i]
The three authors of the Vedas were
The buffoon, the knave and the thief.[ii]
All the well-known formulae of the pandita-s-jarphari, turphari, etc.
And all the obscene rites for the queen commanded in the Asvamedha
Those were invented by buffoons, and so all the various kinds of presents to the priests,
While the eating of flesh was similarly commended by night-prowling demons.[iii]
There is no other hell than the mundane pain produced by purely mundane causes as thorns etc;
The only supreme is the earthly monarch whose existence is proved by all the world's eyesight;
And the only liberation is the dissolution of the body.[iv]
According to the generally accepted system, in ancient India, the human life was regulated by three main aims: the property, love and duty. By the first were meant the various occupations giving means for life - cultivation, cattle breeding, trade and industry. The Government control with all its ramifications also came under this category. By the second aim was meant the family life, the children and also extra-family satisfaction of passions. What was meant by the third was mainly the religious duty, control of passions, with a view to secure award in the next life in one form or the other of eternal divinity. The normal life of man, according to the views of the orthodox Hindu, must have all these three aims in view. It is his duty to create family and to provide for it: this is interpreted as the service of love even to material aims. Later, having established his family, the Hindu may forsake it, become sannyasin, i.e. a poor homeless wanderer, directing all his thoughts to eternal bliss.

In individual cases, however, this equilibrium among the three aims of life was destroyed in favour of one of them. The materialists, naturally, did not give any importance to the aim of religious duty and openly proclaimed the property and love as the only aims of man.

On the other hand, there were many people in India who fully renounced all property and avowed celibacy, rather complete annihilation of all desires. They formed communities of wandering poor monks. These communities sometimes became so numerous that they became a real calamity for the working population which had .to support them somehow or other.

Like all other Indian teachings, Indian materialism was the speciality of a specific school, which preserved its tradi­tions, developed its teachings and put them into practice. Its origin goes back to the hoary antiquity. As early as c.1000 B.C., in the Upanisads, there is a reference to the teaching which does not acknowledge anything except matter[v].  Five hundred years before Christ, about the time of Buddha, thene were certain schools which did not acknowledge anything except matter, or as put at that time, the four great elements: earth, fire, water and air. There were also some who added a fifth element, ether, thinner than air, and filling the whole space.[vi]

Buddhism was, on the one hand, very close to mate­rialism, since it also negated the existence of God and eternal soul. But the two differed sharply in that Buddhism accepted the law of karma, i.e. retribution for good and bad works. In all the proceedings of the initial sermon of Buddha, his hostile and sharp attitude towards all the theories which accepted the existence of soul is clearly manifest. But at the same time, it was with equal reso­luteness that Buddha opposed Indian materialism which did not accept the moral law or the so-called karma.

Later, at a time when the Mauryas built a large and blossoming empire in Northern India, the materialists worked out a specific philosophical school. Canakya, the Minister to the King Candragupta, has left a treatise on politics,[vii] in which he enumerates the existing philosophical systems. There, he refers to materialism as one of the main systems which the future ruler must study. [viii]

In this epoch, all the three main aims of man in life-property, love and duty-are treated scientifically. During this period, we have the practical sciences (arthasastra), the science of love (kamasastra) and the science of religious duty (dharmasastra). Among the practical sciences, that of governing the country occupies the first place. With his teaching, Canakya himself marked the beginning of a special school of politicians. Quite independently of Canakya and probably at the same time, there also was the theoretician Usanas, whose political teaching differed considerably from that of Canakya. The latter was the representative, so to say, of the official political doctrine, according to which it was necessary to support religion with all force and which was convinced that the temporal power was illumi­nated with religious basis. Usanas, on the other hand, did not consider it necessary to found temporal power on religious base. According to him, there is only one science and that is the science of punishment, or literally, the science of rod (dandaniti).[ix] Brhaspati, to whom the main schools of Indian materialists are attributed, also was first a founder 'of a school of politicians. But his political school diverged from religion still further and remained known in history as the ardent hater of religion and advo­cate of theoretical materialism. It was called either Brhas­pati school after the name of its founder, or Carvaka's school, i.e., of the materialists proper who cared for daily bread alone.[x] Another name for it is Lokayata, that is, the people who care only about the earth and not about the heaven. No complete texts or works of this school have reached us; however, several extracts and passages preserved in the works of other schools, enable us to form a notion of its main aspects and the methods, by which they are proved. A list (as complete as possible) of the works, in which there are references to the teaching of the Carvakas and excerpts from their works, will be given below.

Now I shall dwell on two such works in which have been found extracts from the works of Carvakas unknown till now. The first of them is the Nyayamanjari by the well-known philosopher Jayantabhaga.[xi] Here the materialists have been mentioned twice. Speaking of the number of the sources of valid knowledge he refers to the first main aphorism or sutra of their main work.[xii] Some sutra-s had already been restored from various sources by Prof. Hillebrandt.[xiii] It is now possible for us to restore the first one also. It reads:

athatas tattvak vyakhyasyama iti

Here, the word tattva is set against the word dharma, which is prominent in orthodox schools. This sutra means: In our work, we shall talk of reality and not of duty. From the interpretation of this sutra, it is clear that the materialists then were divided into two camps: those who held the extreme view and fully negated consciousness and considered the human body a simple mechanism (jada) without any consciousness, and those who were moderate in their views and acknowledged its existence but only in the form of special function of the body. Jayanta calls the former Sophists (dhurta). It is the latter whom he calls the real scholars.[xiv] And in fact, the discussions of the former appear to be of sophistic nature.

The fact (tattva) mentioned in the first sutra cannot be either calculated or classified. Also, even the methods of its cognition cannot be found out, and all the attempts made in this connection proved futile. Thus, for instance, sitting in a dark room, we nevertheless know that there are fingers on our hands and that there is distance between them. We could not have known it by sight because it is dark. We did not know it by sense of touch too, for the skin is the organ of sense of touch and it cannot touch itself. We also cannot know it even from inference. Hence, it is proved by this method that all the accepted teachings about the sources of valid knowledge do not withstand criticism. Once it is seen that the cognition can­not be determined, it follows here from that it does not exist and that the processes however conscious, are in reality, mechanical phenomena (jada).[xv]

Jayanta distinguishes the highly educated materialists from these materialists-sophists. They claimed as follows:

"There is undoubtedly a sole conscious element, localized in the whole living body. We also allow that this conscious­ness is subject to synthesis and other mental processes. One would hardly argue against this; but that this continues to exist after death cannot be proved. The consciousness, leaving one body, naturally cannot settle in another. Had this been possible, we would have remembered about those things which we did in our previous births, exactly in the same manner as in this birth, we remember about things done in the childhood. We cannot show any reason why the same eternal soul, living now in one and sometimes in another body, has different memory: it remembers what it undergoes in one body and does not what it does in the other bodies. Having been convinced, therefore, that there is no soul after the death of the body it is neces­sary to do away with any talk of future life, which is traced back to the theory of eternal soul, and to try to live happily, according to the, principle:

“So long as we live, we shall be happy!
There is none here who will not die;
When he dies and is turned to ashes, ­
From where is he to appear again?”

Another extract, to which we would like to draw attention, occurs in the work of Vacaspatimisra, in his interpretation of Nyayasutra 3.2.39.[xvi] The school of Indian realists supposes that matter consists of particles moving in and combining in the body. Like Aristotle, they assume that the natural motion of all particles is rotatory (parispanda). The cons­cious motion (kriya), ie, the following up and achievement of aims, is under the influence of impulse from the side of psychic elements. This impulse was represented in semi­-anthropomorphic features. The main argument of the materia­lists was that a conscious act could be fully explained by the motion of particles of matter. The difference between the two motions is only superfluous. Just as the different material elements, connected with each other, may form such a substance as alcohol which does not resemble the substances of which it is made, in the same manner the different material elements, connected in the living body, develop a new quality, a conscious act, which is not similar to them.

But to this, the Naiyayikas raise the following objection: In a drink, each particle has alcohol whereas in case of material elements of the body, each one individually does not have consciousness. Any property of the matter, as for instance weight, must be wherever matter is. If the cons­ciousness and the will were also the qualities of matter, they would then have been everywhere where there was matter. However, we do not see this, for instance, in a pot and similar objects. One cannot, therefore, contend that consciousness and will appertain to matter.

The materialist objects thus:[xvii] Consciousness and will are not at all such properties as belong to matter in general, as for instance weight. They belong to it only in known combinations. Just as the seed kinva, mashed and fermented, gives us alcohol, exactly in the same manner, the elements of matter, having formed a body, may be converted into a kind of consciously moving objects.

To this the Naiyayikas reply[xviii] that every particle of alcohol, taken individually, has intoxicating effect. This power is not inherent in the known organized whole consisting of parts. Similarly even the parts of the body would have to think, each taken separately. One cannot affirm arbitrarily that matter thinks as a whole but does not think in parts of the body. It is possible to separate out three or four members, and the thought will continue to work. If it be assumed that thinking is inherent in parts of a body, a whole series of thinkers would have to be there in one body.

“Let it be so”, replies the materialist;[xix] “this does not contradict my principle.”

“No”, the Naiyayika replies.      We see that different people, if they are self-dependent, have different aims and all of them cannot do one work together, for there is no such law that many people accidentally should have one aim and would do one work. Besides in case of one person, in one body, the separate thoughts are in agreement among themselves; this is not the case with different bodies. This can be explained only by the fact that in one body, there is only one organ of thought. After the sensual sensation and its object change, there remains, nevertheless, their cognition in memory and we have a right to conclude that the cognition is not a property of either the organ of feelings or its object. Exactly, in the same manner, although the body changes, as evidenced by changing age - ­infancy, youth and old age - nevertheless the same memory remains.

Therefore, one cannot affirm that consciousness is a property of body. Besides, speaking of conscious motion, we have in view not merely a motion which is possessed by all particles of matter, but a conscious attainment of aim, achievement of what is desired and avoiding of what is not desired. The materialist, not paying any attention to this difference, founds his thesis on motion, in general, and not on the fact of motion towards aim.


A. In Sanskrit

  1. Madhavacarya, Sarvadarsanasarrgraha, ed. Bibl. Ind. 1858, pp. 1-7
  2. Haribhadra, $a¢dadanasamuccaya, ed. L. Suali, Bibl. Ind. 1905, p. 300ff.
  3. Gunaratna, Tarkarahasyadipika, ib.
  4. Jayanta, Nyaya-manjari, Benares 1895, pp. 64, 466ff.
  5. Vatsyayana, Nyaya-bhasya on Nyaya-sutra iii. 2. 39.
  6. Uddyotakara, Nyayavartika.
  7. Vacaspati Misra Nyayavartika-tatparya-tika.
  8. Sankaracarya, Sarvasiddhantasarrgraha, ed. & tr. by M. Rangacarya, Madras 1909.
  9. Samkhya-sutra-vrtti, iii. 17-22
  10. Samkhya-tattva-kaumudi, on Karika 5
  11. Samkaradigvijaya.

B. European Studies
  1. H. Jacobi, Zur Fruhgeschichte der indischen Philosophie (Sitzb. K. Preuss. Ak. d. w. 1911).
  2. L. Suali, Materiaux pour servir a l'Histoire du Materia­lisme Indien, Le Museon, N. S. 9, Louvain, 1908.
  3. Pizzagalli, Nastika Carvaka e Lokayatika, Pisa 1907.
  4. A. Hillebrandt, Zur Kenntniss der indischen Materi­alisten.
  5. Ego-khe, Ueber Materialisten und Skeptiker, Alt-Indian, Breslau 1890. p. 168ff.
  6. Statii R. Garbe & L. de la Vallee Poussin in Hasting's Encyclopaedia. viii. 138 & 93.
  7. John Muir, in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1861.
  8. Hopkins, Great Epic, 1901, p. 86.
  9. Dahlmann, Samkhya, p. 208.
  10. Max Muller, Six Systems, p. 94.

[i] Sarvadarsanasamgraha (Bibl. Ind.) p. 3. cf. Sarvasiddhantasamgraha ii. 15. [The English translation given here are of Cowell and Gough]
[ii] Sarvadarsanasamgraha, p. 6.
[iii] Ib. p.6
[iv] Ib. p.4
[v] cf. H. Jacobi, Ueber das Verhaeltniss des Vedanta zum Samkhya, E. Kuhn's Festschrift, p. 38.
[vi] F. O. Schrader, Ueber den Stand der indischen Philosophie, p. 53
[vii] Kautilya, Arthasastra ed. Shamasastri, Mysore Sanskrit Series.
[viii] Ib. i.2
[ix] Ib. i.
[x] Saddarsanasmuccaya, ed. Suali, p. 300
[xi] Nyayamanjari of Jayantabhatta, ed. Gangadhara Sastri Tailanga, Benares, 1895. Vizianagram Series, Vol. viii
[xii] Ib. p. 64
[xiii] Hillebrandt, Zur Kenntniss der indischen Materialisten, E. Kuhn’s Festschrift, p. 24
[xiv] susiksita, cf. op. cit. p. 467
[xv] Ib. p. 64
[xvi] Nyayavartika-tatparya-tika, Vacaspati Misra, ed. Gangadhara Sastri Tailanga, Viz. Series, Vol. xiii, p. 400ff
[xvii] Ib. p. 400, line 14
[xviii] Ib. p. 400. line 17
[xix] Ikb. P. 400, line 21

ISPP, Vol. X, 1968-9, Translated by: H.C. Gupta

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Science versus Miracles: Reading a message in a sealed cover

B Premanand

Experiment: 133

Effect: Telling the number a person thinks.

The tantrik asks a person to tell a number. When ash is rubbed on the surface of a blank card the number appears.

Props: Soap, ash, blank card.

Method: Write the numbers 1 to 9 on the board with soap. Ask a person to tell a number from 1 to 9 and rub ash on the part that number is written.

Experiment: 134

Effect: Reading a message in a sealed cover.

The psychic gives a card to his client, asks him to write his problem clearly, put it in an envelope and seal it. Then he takes his hand over the envelope, concentrates and tells what is written on the card

Props: White card of the size of the envelope, envelope thick enough so that what is written on the card is not visible. Cotton and Ether.

Method: As soon as the sealed envelope is placed on the table, palm the cotton saturated with Ether and as if you are taking your palm on the cover, rub on the envelope and slowly read out the problem or message. Ether will evaporate immediately without leaving any trace. Then open the cover and read out what is written on the card.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Belief in Rebirth and the Gospel of Gautama Buddha

T.A.P Aryaratne

When we speak of Buddhism we mean the doctrine set forth in a certain collec­tion of compositions, chiefly discourses, orally transmitted over a period of some five centuries before the Christian era began, and committed to writing towards the close of that period. From this fact we cannot justly conclude that these documents are totally unreliable as a guide to the teaching of the Buddha; but to assume the opposite, namely that they constitute a completely or even largely accurate record of the Buddha’s doctrine, would be to discount the propensity of chroniclers of the an­cient world to take liberties with facts and events to enlarge, embellish, and adorn them. If, in addition, we have reason to believe that the various composers of the discourses had sectarian interests, or had their special causes to plead, we cannot reasonably expect from them an objective record of facts. And we do certainly know that the authors of the discourses, the Buddhist monks, belonged to an order that was badly split by dissensions which began in the very lifetime of its founder.

In this connection, what Dr. Edward Consze says, in a book published just four years ago, is very pertinent. He says: “The history of Buddha’s thought might be expected to begin with an account of the teaching of the Buddha himself or at least the beliefs current in the most ancient community. The nature of our literary docu­ments makes such an attempt fruitless and impossible.” Thus according to Dr. Consze not only the Buddha’s actual teaching but even the beliefs commonly held by the earliest Buddhist community are impossible to ascertain. I would not go all the way with Dr. Consze. I would not say it is altogether impossible to get a fairly clear notion of what the Buddha taught; but I would say that to do so demands a readiness to accept what investigation reveals, no matter how startling the revelation may be.

Before we go into the question of the authenticity of the texts, it is perhaps pertinent to ask why this question of authenticity should arise at all. What if the ancient authors of the canonical documents had in fact made a scrupulous effort to hand down to prosperity the genuine word of the Master? It would not be difficult to entertain that possibility if only the documents disclosed a consistent system and a credible narrative. But to our disappointment where we expect to find consistency we only find contradiction. We are presented with the startlingly original philosophy of impermanence along with the primitive Indian doctrine of rebirth and as part and parcel of it; we find the Buddha, whom we have pictured in our minds as a soul of humility, presented in many places as one given to vainglorious talk, to bragging about his wisdom; we find arahats, of whom we do not find a single nowadays, scat­tered far and wide in their hundreds in the Thatagata’s time; we find the arahat shown as being capable of miracles and marvels that would put to shame the miracles of the New Testament (he can multiply his human form and appear as many persons: he can become invisible at will; and he can go right through a wall or a mountain, crash through to the bowels of the earth, walk on water without sinking, fly through the air, touch and stroke the sun, the moon and the stars, creep through key holes, etc); we find the Buddha and the arahats shown as making flying trips to one or other of the heavens to hold converse with the gods and other exalted beings who inhabit them and we read of such monstrosities as the cutting of their own throats by arahats for fear of falling from the arahat state! There is also, of course, the other side of the coin; the Buddha is shown as noble and dignified in conversation, as denouncing miracles and marvels, as instructing his hearers again and again in the sublimely beautiful Brahmaviharas and the Eightfold Path of deliverance.

But which of these is the true picture? The meditations on abounding loving kindness and the path to the passionless state or the descriptions of the alleged super­normal powers of those who have reached that state; the non-self regarding principle of impermanence and soullessness or self-emphasizing doctrine of rebirth? A satis­factory answer to these questions can, I think, be found if we can first find an answer to the larger question, the pursuit of which Dr. Conze characterised as “fruitless and impossible” namely the question, “What did the Buddha teach?”

At the outset of this investigation I would make one assumption, namely that Siddatta Gouthama was an original philosopher and not a reformer or a reshaper of existing systems. The average Hindu, of whom Radhakrishnan is the typical representative, believes that the Buddha was a reformer of Hindu ideas. I think the evi­dence suggests that the Buddha was nothing if not original. There is no gainsaying that he was the greatest original thinker India ever produced. And if it is accepted that the Buddha taught an original philosophy which broke away radically from ex­isting traditions, then by eliminating from the texts all the elements of religion and philosophy that were current in India at the time the Buddha began his ministry, we can arrive at reasonably accurate idea of what his teaching was.

It is easy enough, at least for educated Buddhists, to discard a good deal of the supernatural elements in the Tripitaka, though some may be loath to surrender the belief in the miraculous powers of the arahat. But no matter how intelligent educated a Buddhist may be, he will cling to the rebirth doctrine as though it were the very life­blood of the Buddha Dhamma. And the reason for this passionate attachment to the belief in rebirth is not far to seek. The doctrine responds to man’s deepest craving - the craving for more life. Man has a vital stake in the doctrine, and it is easy to understand why all religions are founded on the craving for more life. Christianity is founded on the rock of personal immortality, and popular Buddhism founded on the rebirth doctrine. If after this life man cannot hope to live on in heaven, he must at least have another spell in this world, or in any world whatever; life anywhere is preferable to the finality of death and extinction.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the rebirth doctrine, which was deeply embedded in the Indian consciousness should have crept into the Buddhist Cannon and entrenched itself there after the Buddha’s death. Without it Buddhism had no chance of finding a foothold in India as a religion; the monks of the Buddhist Order, the Sangha knew this; and it is they who fixed the Canon as we know it. The monks knew also, no doubt, from the fact that the common man was not capable of grasping the revolutionary concept of impermanence of Anicca and even more from his natural horror of a teaching that denies the reality of his self, that there was no hope of survival for their Order amidst the other religious movements which catered for man’s lust for more life. So they set about purposefully garnishing the absolutely original teaching of the Buddha with elements of popular appeal - the rebirth dogma, the popular gods, the miraculous powers of the arahat, etc.

It would be interesting to compare the popular elements of the Jain religion with those of Buddhism. In both we have the Karma - and - rebirth doctrine; in both it is taught that enlightened ones appear in this world from time to time - from eternity until, eternity; in both there are exactly 24 previous enlightened ones named (the Jain list starts with Vrasabha and the Buddhist with Dipankara); both systems speak of the omniscience of the founder; both speak of deliverance from Samsara and attainment of Nirvana; and both were characterised by mendicant orders. And when we remember that the Jain system was first in the field, it becomes obvious which system borrowed from which. To say that popular Buddhism borrowed from Jainism, how­ever, does not mean that the Buddha was a borrower. There are two Buddhisms - the Buddhism of the monks, which is popular Buddhism, and the Buddhism of the Bud­dha- the esoteric original Buddhism. It is the Buddhism of the monks that borrowed the religious trappings of other faiths in India. And When these borrowings are re­moved from the system that has come to be known as Buddhism, the residue is the pure doctrine of the Buddha, which is entirely original; and this consists of the Anicca - Anatta doctrine with -its corollary, imperfection or ill or suffering and path out of his oppressive sense of suffering, which is also the middle path - the path that avoids the extremes of self-torture and of self-gratification.

Almost all the writers on Buddhism father on the Buddha all the ideas found in the Canon, and thus implicate him in the naive beliefs of his philosophical forbears and of his contemporaries. They forget one of the utterances frequently attributed to him that his doctrine was unheard of before, difficult to perceive, hard to understand, not grasped by ordinary minds. In the Ariyapariyesana Sutta and elsewhere, it is said that the Buddha did not at first want to teach this “toilsome, abstruse, deep, difficult, subtle doctrine” But out of compassion for humanity he eventually taught it. Now what is so hard to understand, subtle, and abstruse in the teaching that the individual has a series of lives and what he sows in one he reaps in another? The dogma is not only extremely simple to grasp but it is one that the average man avidly and fondly embraces; no mental operations are involved in apprehending it; and far from being unheard of, it was a very commonplace doctrine. What was unheard of before, what was deep, what was difficult to be understood by ordinary minds, was the denial of rebirth, the doctrine of Anatta, and the broader concept of Anicca. There cannot be the slightest doubt that this is the only meaning of the words so definitely attributed to the Buddha in the Canon.

Let us look more closely at the question of what is not original in Buddhism; what it shares, for example with the Jain system. The Jains taught that existence is suffering, that this suffering is due to karma in pervious births, that rebirth will persist so long as karma persists, that the way to end rebirth is by destroying past karma, that past karma can be destroyed by austerities, and that with the destruction of past karma by austerities rebirth is ended and the soul at the death of the body attains nirvana. The Jains also held that these truths were taught by enlightened beings, called Thirthakaras, who appeared at different epochs; and, as we saw, they named 24 of them. Now all these features are found in Buddhism, except for the following variations. The Buddhist system admitted the problem of suffering as humanity’s major problem, not as a truth that had to be discovered but as an obvious phenom­enon that cannot escape notice; and it explained that suffering was not due to past karma, as the Jains taught, but to the very nature of sentient life, which is short lived and necessarily therefore imperfect, and which is conscious of its imperfection (the man who is bountifully endowed with wealth and health will still think of the ap­proaching end of his good life and groan). And the way to escape from suffering that the Buddha taught was - a radical departure from the extreme path of austerities or self-mortification of the Jains; namely, the middle path of moderation, and constant meditation on the vanity of belief in an enduring self. When one unswervingly ob­serves the eightfold path of unselfish living, which includes the brahmaviharas or meditations concerned with identifying oneself with the whole of humanity or, more correctly, with the whole of sentient life, in this life itself (diththe va dhamme) one achieves nibbana or equanimity or deliverance from suffering; and release from suf­fering is identical with release from the sense of a separate self.

The problem facing the Jains and the Buddha was the same, the problem of suffering. In determining the causes and prescribing the cure for suffering, the Bud­dha differed fundamentally from the Jains; the physician was not content with publicizing his remedy; he also denounced the quacks, their diagnosis, and the rem­edy they prescribed. Again and again in the Nikayas, we find the Buddha denouncing the practices and the beliefs of the Jains or Niganthas, as they were called. In the Devadha Sutta of the Majjhima Nikayas, for example, the Buddha takes up the karma­and - Rebirth doctrine, which was a fundamental article of faith with the Jains, analyses it, and exposes it as hollow and false. At this point, I should like to digress a little and refer to a method characteristic of the Buddha when dealing with irrational beliefs. It is the method of one who accepts as true only those doctrines, the truth of which can be observed, or demonstrated, or directly inferred. In the famous Tevijja Sutta a young Brahmin asks him how he should affect union with Brahma, the highest God; and the Buddha’s answer is: How do you know that Brahma exists? Have you seen him face to face? And he proceeds to show that the only way Brahma should be understood is in impersonal sense, as man’s highest aspiration, and the way to union with Brahma is by practising universal love, which is identical with self-forgetful meditation.

It is with the same directness, amounting almost to bluntness, that the Buddha deals with the Iains’s concept of Karma and Rebirth. Addressing the Jains, he says: “You Niganthas believe that your sufferings are due to Karma coming over from past births. How do you know you existed in the past and produced such-and-such karma?” He ridicules the whole idea of previous births, and proceeds to show that cause and effect or Karma is an observable and demonstrable process; and he gives examples. A man is struck by a poisoned arrow, and he feels acute pain and experiences suffering; a surgeon is summoned and surgeon extracts the dart, and the extraction causes the wounded man intense suffering; the surgeon applies medicaments on the wound, and the man again suffers, acutely; eventually the treatment heals the wound, and the man suffers no more, and is free to go about his normal business.

Here a particular series of the occurrence of pain and suffering is analyzed and is shown to be due to observable cause, and the cessation of suffering, too, shown due to an observable cause. The question as to why that particular man and none other was struck by the dart is not raised because not relevant to the explanation of the man’s suffering; but I think it is implied that such a question leads one to postulate mystical, indemonstrable and irrational causes when the real cause stares in the face. Another example cited is that of a man who falls passionately in love with a woman: he sees this woman flirting with another man, enjoying his talk and his company and he feels the pangs of jealousy and suffers acute mental agony; then at a certain stage he de­cides to get out of his infatuation, and casts out of his mind all thoughts concerning the woman, and he suffers no more. Here again a particular effect is shown to have an observable cause. It is not necessary to postulate a cause beyond one’s birth to account for one’s sufferings; nor is a future birth necessary to overcome one’s present suffer­ing. In this example, it was utterly unnecessary to account for the lover’s sufferings by the unverifiable theory that in the past birth he committed the crime of weaning the affections of a woman from her rightful lover; the cause and the cure are both to be found in this life; they are symptoms and features common to human instincts anywhere. The same theme, with variations is the subject matter of the Cula-dukka­kkhanda Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya.

That the denial of rebirth by the Buddha was the unique and revolutionary fea­ture of the philosophical teaching in India of the 6th century B.C. is evident from a number of crucial passages in the texts in which the view is expressed in a variety of ways. Anicca or the principle of impermanence was emphasized in the first sermon itself. If this sermon is thoughtfully studied it will be seen that although it has not been seriously tampered with, the nooks have not been altogether blind to the possible danger of leaving it entirely unedited. It will be observed that when the discourse was ended the immediate reaction of Kondanna, one of the five original disciples was to exclaim “whatever by nature has a beginning has also by nature an end” and the Buddha’s reply to Kondanna’s exclamation was in turn to exclaim that Kondanna had understood, that is, grasped the meaning of the discourse. Therefore, we may safely infer that the starting point of the first discourse was Anicca, though the dukka phenomenon resulting from Anicca is elaborately described. We can reasonably pre­sume that at the out set the Buddha wanted his hearers to know that whatever begins must come to an end: for example a living being that begin existence at birth must finish it at death. He reinforced this idea in the next sermon by clearly demonstrating the absence of an enduring soul in man, which alone can be supposed to supply a basis for rebirth. And, logically, in the final message to his followers he emphasized, the same basic principle. “Perishable, are compounded things”, and compounded things have a beginning or organisation.

This is the vital principle that the Buddha laid his finger on: what is caused to come into being as an entity must in due course disrupt and perish. And cause is what we normally understand by the term - a real process that can be observed or directly apprehended or directly inferred: it just cannot be something that can only be imag­ined or must be taken on trust and is unverifiable. The Buddha knew that the belief in rebirth was widespread in his time; and he concentrated his logic right from the start on demolishing the mystical, superstitious, and unscientific nature of that belief.

It may be argued that by the statements “whatever has a beginning has also an end”, and “All samskaras are perishable” the Buddha meant that each span of life in the infinite samsaric series is of limited duration. But why should a world teacher repeatedly emphasize what is obvious to any simpleton, that every creature born must also die? And, again, it may be argued - and it has been - that the Anicca merely means that every thing including human beings change every moment, that the child is not the same as the youth or the youth the same as the old man. But this, too, is obvious to any average intelligence: Nothing is added to existing knowledge by em­phasizing the truism that everything changing that nothing is the same for long. The statement of the Buddha makes sense only when it is understood as a denial of the continuity of the individual beyond death or the disruption of the khandas.

And what of Anatta? Was the word coined merely to distinguish it from the Hindu Atman which wanders in Samsara unchanged and intact, did Anatta merely emphasize as popular Buddhism seems to assume, that the wandering Atman or Atta is changing all the time? Is not Anatta on the contrary the very negation of Atta, the denial of the reality of a wandering element changing or unchanged, from birth to birth? It certainly is what it means - it is the opposite of Atta, not a modified Atta or Atman, Anatta is implied in Anicca, in the statement that whatever by nature has a beginning has also an end. Samsara the stream of births by definition has no begin­ning and, logically, can have no end. Kondanna’s understanding of the first sermon was hailed by the Buddha, and since the same idea was repeated by him in many discourses and just before his death, it must be presumed to be the basis of his teach­ing; and eternal Samsara, which contradicts that teaching and which was taught by others before him, must be ruled out as having no part or lot with the Dhamma.

Let us for a moment assume that the Buddha did teach karma and rebirth, and try to work out the implications of the doctrine and see whether they square with his reputation for unsurpassed insight and intelligence.

For deeds to produce karmic effects, in the shape of rewards or punishments in this or a future life, it is said that they should be consciously and intentionally done. It is asserted that a man’s conscious and deliberate actions have reactions in some mysterious manner even after death, and that he must be reborn in order to reap the results of at least some of those actions. The mechanism of this scheme of retribution is not explained at all, but let that pass for the moment. Buddhists maintain that the Buddha expressly taught that good actions win reward or merit in this life or in a future life and that evil actions are duly followed by punishments in the course of repeated lives. Now what are good and evil actions? What are the norms for judging actions to be good or evil? Evidently deeds are classified good or bad according to conventional standards of civilized society. We are not told what happens when a cannibal or a head-hunter kills according to the decrees of tribal law. The savage kills from what he believes to be his duty; and his purpose therefore is highly moral. What are the karmic effects of such acts which are evil and criminal by our standards but correct according to the primitive conception of right action? What are the karmic effects of animal sacrifice performed in primitive societies from high religious mo­tives? It has been estimated that some 500,000 years ago there were no human beings on this planet, evolution had not proceeded to the point of producing man. How did Karma work for the inconceivable variety of animals, birds, insects and reptiles that roamed the earth in the pre-human age? The explanation of popular Buddhism might be that these animals were human beings who had previously existed in other planets, and other worlds and were, as animals in this world, living out the karmic effects of evil deeds in their earlier human life. This of course suggests that a being must first be born in human form, since the acts of animals are not motivated or deliberate and could not produce karma, whether good or bad. Those who would not make the karma theory an integral part of the Buddha’s teaching probably did not bargain for his impasse!

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the real Buddha-vachana has got to be methodically extracted from the vast number of documents which constitute the canon; and in this process many portions of the canon, including whole Suttas have to be eliminated as being inconsistent with the basic doctrine. Even in the very earliest times there could be no agreement among Buddhist as to what the Master’s teaching was. There were even in those early days, about the second century after the Buddha’s death, as many as 18 different sects, and of the disputes that arose within the Bud­dhist community, this question of the surviving individual took first place. It is in fact, the first subject discussed in the kathavaththu, which is an account of the various disputes current in the time of Asoka. The question of the permanence of the indi­vidual self, or the pudgalavada, as the subject came to be known, was nothing but a symptom of the confusion created by the very earliest monks, who would not make up their minds to break with the Athma or Atta tradition therefore sought to effect a compromise between the Anatta and Atta.

A favourite method adopted by the authors of the documents in grafting the rebirth doctrine on the Dhamma, was to tack on to a Sutta on a definite subject some quite irrelevant passange bearing on the rebirth theme and in conflict with the general tenor of the discourse. Such a stock passage is the description of the monk who attains arahathood, going through the various jhanas or trances, in the course of which he recalls his past lives and acquires miraculous powers. The Devadha Sutta (already quoted) and others are disfigured and sometimes rendered meaningless by such passages.

I now come to a more sophisticated explanation of Karma, the alleged motive force of the wheel of rebirth. Karma is explained as the process or mechanism of natural justice in the universe. This is a dogmatic assertion without a shred of evi­dence to support it.  How do we know that the processes of nature are just? All that we know is that there are uniformities in nature; that there is system in the structure and operations of the physical world: for the rest nature is blind, wasteful, red in tooth and claw, utterly amoral. Natural justice indeed! What natural justice could there be in a world where animal life on land and sea is organised on the principle that the bigger must swallow the smaller in order to exist; where the reason for the existence of small animal species is to serve as food for the bigger; where the mouse is the foreordained prey of the cat, and the fly of the spider. Those who talk of karmic or natural justice talk only in human terms - terms agreeable to the mind of civilized man. All moral values are man-made. Justice is a value-concept born under the stress of the human situation and man tends to assume that his values are the highest and the most appropriate to the universe! The idea of natural justice or karmic justice is simply the desire to extend a human value-idea to the universe of eternal time and boundless space. It is of the same order as the concept of an almighty personal god. Both are arbitrary human concepts based on faith. The Buddha had no use for either.

We can legitimately or rationally explain only what falls within the limits of a span of human life, the limits being birth on the one hand and death on the other. Talk concerning possibilities beyond these two limits is idle talk. Nagasena in the Milinda Panna, trying to explain rebirth of beings changed by Karma can only de­vise, examples like milk changing into curd, one flame being lit from another, man­goes being produced from previously planted mangoes - all observable physical phe­nomena which do not reach out to the world of the seen and the unknown. You cannot prove the unseen or the mystical or the imaginary by the analogy of what is actual or real and observable.
The rebirth idea arose among primitive people and remained with them as an article of faith, and certain modern communities hold to the belief purely as a matter of faith and tradition, with no intelligent or demonstrable method of making it acceptable to the rational mind. Hence the feverish enthusiasm with which Hindus and Buddhists hail any person who claims to recall a previous birth. None of these cases of claimed recollection have been investigated under fully scientific condition, though a great many have received a quasi-scientific investigation, mostly by interested parties. When eventually such cases come to be investigated by genuine scientific methods of control, I have no doubt, that they will all turn out to be carefully engineered frauds, not unlike the hoaxes perpetrated in the sphere of spiritualism by mediums who have claimed to be able to contact spirits of dead people and who have successfully hoodwinked professors of psychology for years. Spiritualistic mediums rely heavily on human gullibility, particularly on the gullibility and sometimes the complicity of investigators. Lazlo-Lazlo, the Hungarian medium, soon after his exposure confessed to Cornelius Tabori the journalist, that he had been able to carry on his sham demonstration chiefly owing to the gullibility of the investigating university professors who attended his seances!

This is the condensed text of a lecture delivered under the auspices of the Rationalist Association of Ceylon in 1966, later published in The Ceylon Rationalist Ambassador brought out by Abraham T Kovoor. This paper is mainly concerned with Pali Buddhism. 

Courtesy: Soul, Spirit, Rebirth and Posession: Author & Editor: Abraham T Kovoor [Publisher: B Premanand, Indian CSICOP, Podanur, 2009]


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