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?