Thursday, 30 November 2017

How Framing is Used to Delude Indians

What looks reasonable or ridiculous depends on the context, on how it is framed in terms of what has preceded it and the language that is used to present it. Establishing the framework (setting the context) within which issues will be viewed is a critical strategy for exercising power and influence. The frame of an issue is often constructed through the questions that are asked. Once the frame is constructed, most people will find it impossible to ignore the frame and see the actual picture or the real issue. Just as the frame for a picture constrains our vision and affects our thinking about the picture, framing puts boundaries on our thinking horizon and prevents us from seeing things as they are. Framing as a strategy to delude Indians was started by the Britishers and is now spearheaded by many Western Indologists.

Britishers used two key strategies to enslave Indians and colonize their minds for ever -- educational system and census. The new educational system permanently destroyed the identity and self-worth of Indians, and the census strategy made them keep fighting with each other for ever. Benedict Anderson's (2006) "Imagined Communities" describes how Britishers used three institutions of power (census, map and museum) to profoundly shape the nature of the human beings they ruled, the geography of their domain, and the legitimacy of ancestry.

Britishers introduced a new educational system in India in 1835. The most significant aspect of the new system that replaced India's old educational system was that India's spiritual and cultural heritage were excluded from the system. New history text books were written with a political objective of making "the native subjects of British India more sensible of the immense advantages accruing to them" because of British occupation of India ("The history and culture of the Indian people" Vol 1: Page 9).

The census, started in 1872, defined and shaped the caste system (birth-based social categorization called casteism) in India. The British infused caste identity among Indians by the simple task of conducting a census. Several caste advocacy groups were formed and these groups wrote petitions to the British, requesting a higher rank in the hierarchy to be drawn up by the census authorities. It was a divisive game played by the British to divide and rule and reduce Indian society into many fractions.

India obtaining political freedom in 1947 did not affect the frame already created. Effectiveness of framing as a strategy is indicated by the enduring effects of the frame that is created. Colonization of the minds of Indians continues without any significant break.

Most Indians have no sense of their identity (distinguishing feature or uniqueness). They have not been introduced to spirituality or higher knowledge (inquiry into the self or subject), which is the core, distinguishing feature of India. Both the formal educational system and indirect education through movies and other media continue to strengthen the frame created by Britishers. History textbooks continue to glorify the invaders and belittle the wonder that was India for 90% of her life before she was enslaved. Even today, Indians continue to be taught about the successive foreign invasions of the country, but little about how Indians resisted them, and less about their victories. They are taught to decry the Indian social system, but they are not taught how its vitality enabled the national culture to adjust its central ideas to new conditions and remain the oldest surviving civilization in the world ("The history and culture of the Indian people" Vol 1: Page 9).

The latest census in India recorded caste as an entry, following the British practice, but after a gap of 80 years. During the early census, people often exaggerated their caste status, while people try to downgrade it now, but both of them strengthen the frame of birth-based categorization. Even though it is totally irrational to assume that son of a weaver is a weaver even if he does not do weaving, and daughter of a lawyer is a lawyer by mere birth, census does precisely that. Birth-based social categorization may be relevant in the West since social categorization is based on material wealth there (son of a billionaire is a billionaire, to begin with at least), but it is irrelevant for India where social categorization is based on Guna and Karma.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Why Western Scholars Don't Understand India?

Why Western Scholars Don't Understand India? Because they are like one studying fish as an animal on land.

Can you understand fish if you ignore its existence in water, treat it as an animal on land, and study it? It is like studying Red Cross after excluding its humanitarian aspect, or like studying aeroplanes treating them as cars. If you study what is common between cars and aeroplanes, you will not understand aeroplanes meaningfully. To understand something, one has to study what distinguishes it from others and not just what is common between it and everything else. But many western scholars have been trying to study India, after excluding her distinguishing feature. 

Knowledge consists of two parts. Studying the world as an object is the first half of knowledge, called materialism or lower knowledge. The second half is inquiry into the self or subject, called spirituality or higher knowledge. India has specialized in this investigation into the self, the subject. This is the core, distinguishing feature of India (read my previous blog on "What is India's Core, Like Existence-in-Water is to Fish?". Ranganathananda (2005) explains how the latest scientific discoveries have made it grossly inadequate and unscientific to confine oneself to only the lower knowledge.

Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works Vol 3: 184-185) said: "Two minds in the dim past of history, cognate to each other in form and kinship and sympathy, started, being placed in different routes. The one was the ancient Hindu mind, and the other the ancient Greek mind. The former started by analysing the internal world. The latter started in search of that goal beyond by analysing the external world."

Experts on Indian thought and culture hold that investigation of the internal world is the core aspect of India, like existence in water is to fish. Those who have confined their investigation to only the lower half of knowledge, cannot understand India. There are possibly two reasons why Western Indologists don't seek to understand the core aspect of India.

1. Bias Against Religion. Any means of acquiring higher knowledge or inquiry into the self or subject is called religion, and it often, though not necessarily, involves a personal god. Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works Vol 2: 66) said: "This effort to get beyond the limitations of the senses -- out of matter, as it were -- and to evolve the spiritual man -- this struggle itself is the grandest and most glorious that man can make." However, the western scholars are part of a religious environment that is based on belief rather than self-realization, and holding on to the unscientific claim that one god/messenger/book/path/religion is true and others are false. Hence, they may be too biased against the domain of religion and spirituality, and too closed to be able to pursue higher knowledge.

2. Inappropriate Method. The Western Indologists appear to have succumbed to the 'boy with hammer' syndrome. Just as the boy with hammer assumes that everything needs to be fixed with the hammer, the Western Indologists assume that everything needs to be studied using sensory or objective data. They cannot comprehend that a new tool is needed to delve into higher knowledge, using subjective datum from subjective experience (Ranganathananda, 2005). Higher knowledge, and India whose core is higher knowledge, cannot be studied objectively, like one studies the world of objects. It is known that the sense organs are naturally tuned to go outside into the world of objects. It requires extraordinary will and effort to turn them inward and focus on self-inquiry. Western Indologists may not have been trained for doing this. 

R. C. Majumdar wrote in "The history and culture of the Indian people" (Vol 1: 42-43): "So far as available evidence goes, there cannot be the slightest doubt that Indian civilization manifests itself in a way and a form very different from that which we are familiar in the rest of the world. We have consequently to approach the history of India in a different spirit, and adopt a different scale of values in order to appraise her culture and civilization."

Inquiry into the self or subject is for India like existence in water is for fish. Excluding that core and studying India is as meaningless as studying fish after excluding its existence in water. May be the Western Indologists shy away from doing self-inquiry or analysing subjective experiences because of their cultural baggage. Rajiv Malhotra's "The Battle for Sanskrit" provides a summary of their psychological blinders and their compulsive obsession to use irrelevant frameworks to look at India.

If experts on cars were to write books or deliver lectures on aeroplanes, would we take them seriously? But, the Western Indologists seem to be doing something similar. So, isn't it strange that they have been given India's major awards like Padma Shri, given charge of the $5.6 million Murty Classical Library of India, and their opinions are included as facts by authors, teachers, journalists, and movie producers?

Monday, 9 May 2016

What is India's Core, Like Existence-in-Water is to Fish?

What is India's core, like existence-in-water is to fish, that which defines her identity among nations?

Knowledge consists of two parts. Studying the world as an object is the first half of knowledge. We use the word 'thing' to refer to an object in this world. Chairs, tables, trees, plants, the sun, the moon, the stars, etc., are all things. This is physical science or the knowledge of sensory data, objective data brought by the senses from the world outside. This is called materialism, vyavahārika, or lower knowledge (Ranganathananda, 2005).

When we study objects in physical science, what about the subject, the one that studies, the observer that observes? Turning our searchlight in that direction is the second half of knowledge. What is this human being as the subject, as the knower? A new tool is needed to probe into this field, using subjective datum from subjective experience, since one cannot know the knower. This cannot be studied objectively like studying the world of objects. This is also a science, a study of That which impinges upon us at the sensory level coming from beyond that level. This is called self-inquiry, spirituality, paramārthika, or higher knowledge. Swami Ranganathananda (2005) provides a compelling argument about how the latest scientific discoveries have made it grossly inadequate and unscientific to confine oneself to only the lower knowledge.

India has specialized in this investigation into the self, the subject. The higher knowledge is the core feature of India. Nowhere else in the world has such a systematic investigation into the self or subject been done. Experts on Indian thought and culture hold that investigation of the internal world is the distinguishing aspect of India. Self-inquiry sets India apart from other nations in the world.

Radhakrishnan ("Indian philosophy: Vol 1" p. 28) wrote: The philosophic attempt to determine the nature of reality may start either with the thinking self or the objects of thought. In India, the interest is in the self of man. Where the vision is turned outward, the rush of fleeting events engages the mind. In India, "know the self," sums up the law and the prophets. Within man is the spirit that is the centre of everything.

Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works Vol 3: 108-109) said: “Everyone born into this world has a bent, a direction towards which he must go, through which he must live, and what is true of the individual is equally true of the race. Each race, similarly, has a peculiar bent, each race has a peculiar raison d'être, each race has a peculiar mission to fulfil in the life of the world... Political greatness or military power is never the mission of our race; it never was, and, mark my words, it never will be. But there has been the other mission given to us, which is to conserve, to preserve, to accumulate, as it were, into a dynamo, all the spiritual energy of the race, and that concentrated energy is to pour forth in a deluge on the world whenever circumstances are propitious. Let the Persian or the Greek, the Roman, the Arab, or the Englishman march his battalions, conquer the world, and link the different nations together, and the philosophy and spirituality of India is ever ready to flow along the new-made channels into the veins of the nations of the world... India's gift to the world is the light spiritual.”

Radhakrishnan ("Indian philosophy: Vol 1" p. 23) wrote: Each nation has its own characteristic mentality, its particular intellectual bent. In all the fleeting centuries of history, in all the vicissitudes through which India has passed, a certain marked identity is visible. She has held fast to certain psychological traits which constitute her special heritage, and they will be the characteristic mark of the Indian people so long as they are privileged to have a separate existence.

Dasgupta ("A history of Indian philosophy: Vol 1" page viii) wrote: "It is not in the history of foreign invasions, in the rise of independent kingdoms at different times, in the empires of this or that great monarch that the unity of India is to be sought. It is essentially one of spiritual aspirations and obedience to the law of the spirit, which were regarded as superior to everything else, and it has outlived all the political changes through which India passed."

Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works Vol 3: 288-289) said: "When the life-blood is strong and pure, no disease germ can live in that body. Our life-blood is spirituality. If it flows clear, if it flows strong and pure and vigorous, everything is right; political, social, any other material defects, even the poverty of the land, will all be cured if that blood is pure... That is the life of our race and that must be strengthened. You have withstood the shocks of centuries simply because you took great care of it, you sacrificed everything else for it... That is the national mind, that is the national life-current. Follow it and it leads to glory. Give it up and you die; death will be the only result, annihilation the only effect, the moment you step beyond that life-current."

Inquiry into the self or subject is for India like existence-in-water is for fish. Can one understand fish if its existence-in-water is excluded, if it is treated like an animal on land, and studied?

Monday, 5 October 2015

Karma-Yoga Leadership Experiential Project

-- Venkat R. Krishnan



(Overview: I introduced a leadership experiential project as part of my elective courses in XLRI Jamshedpur in 1997. I brought my elective courses including the project with me when I shifted from XLRI to Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai in 2006. I started adopting neighboring villages as part of the project in 2009. I made the Karma-Yoga leadership experiential project the USP of the institute well before I left the institute in 2014.)