Feyman Lectures on Physics

Dec 15, 2018

Hinduism and Evolution

Linked paper explores various spiritual traditions of Hinduism from the evolutionary perspective. The term evolution in its contemporary usage is closely associated with Biological Evolution (BE). However, the paper uses the term ‘evolution’ in a more general sense to include not only BE, but also Cultural Evolution (CE), Axiological Evolution (AE), and in general any Developmental Evolution (DE) as a continuous process that develops over a long period of time with or without teleology.

The paper defines Hinduism as a meta-religion - a group of belief systems which originated, coexisted and interacted with each other in the Indian subcontinent with shared traits and common substrata. It then defines the contours of what is known as Shāstra - a corpus of Sanskrit texts which forms the basis of theological and philosophical traditions of Hinduism. The Shāstra corpus is divided into three groups: (a) Primary texts (Nigamas and Āgamas), (b) Secondary texts (Smṛitis, Purāṇas, and Epics), (c) Philosophical texts based on primary and secondary sources, including the writings of some of the 19th-20th century protagonists of Hinduism. The evolutionary perspective of Hinduism is explored within and among these three groups with the admission that this particular approach though justified on the basis of sample selection, is incomplete for the very same reason. In this paper, AE is essentially karmic in nature and binds various Hindu belief systems together. The paper explores the relationship between AE, BE, CE, and DE along with their directionality. BE stands out due to its rationalist framework and absence of directionality. 
It is unrealistic to expect complete uniformity of views in a meta-religion like Hinduism that gives space to plurality of beliefs. It is also unrealistic to find in Shāstra any explicit support to BE which originated in the 19th century of Common Era and which is being developed since then adding to its explanatory power. 
The paper shows that the germinating ground for BE’s ‘common descent’ is available in the monist Upaniṣhads and pantheist hymns of primary texts. The secondary texts (Purāṇas) offer an interesting model of Dashāvatāras (10-incarnations) which is loosely isomorphic to BE. Though this isomorphism is ‘by accident’, it suggests that there is no inherent resistance to the gradual evolution of humans from the lower organisms due to the pantheist, nature worshiping substratum of popular Hinduism. Hindu axiology (AE) too supports such evolution on the karmic basis.
Among the huge corpus of secondary texts however, there are few socio-religious texts which sourced cultural memes of hierarchical patrilineal classes and purity of lineage. Although these memes did not exist in the primary source; and although Advaita - the apex theosophy of Hinduism advises the aspirant to shed off these memes for spiritual knowledge, they still exist and may resist the ‘common descent’ - the basic principle of BE.

The paper discusses Hindu theosophical systems which support cosmic DE. Non-sectarian systems among them offer ground to the ‘gradual development’ and ‘common descent’ of BE by following the monist, pantheist primary sources and the karmic axiology. This ground and the subsequent development is without any explicit notion of “random hereditary changes being fixed by natural selection” which is one of the definitive ideas of the Darwinian BE. Yet, the conception of “design without designer”, “direction without director”, and “laws without law maker” is part of the ‘understanding’ (ज्ञान) of these schools which foreshadows the post-modern ideas of BE and DE. The difficulty of explaining the emergence of qualitative experience in individual life-forms seems to have been anticipated by these schools.
Yogi Aurobindo and Swami Vivekānanda of 19th-20th century offered a spiritual model of evolution with alternating directionality of evolution and involution. This model integrated BE and cosmic DE in the cyclic paradigm of Hindu belief systems. Hindu theosophical traditions allow such constructive view which enables theologian to place himself in a particular position of his choice in the vast empirical spatium and construct his metaphysical and axiological models based on the primary sources. Such models are 'regularized' (usually, but not exclusively in Sanskṛit) depending on how firmly they are rooted in the spiritual tradition of Hinduism. Such reconstructions are a part of CE and AE of Hindu belief systems.

Aug 11, 2018

RSS: A View To The Inside

Here is link to the interview by Barkha Dutt of the coauthor - Walter Andersen - of the above titled book about RSS. Andersen is professor of South Asia Studies, Johns Hopkins University, US.
The interview is significant in its conclusion:
RSS is changing by way of (a) being more inclusive as compared to what is was a decade ago, and (b) being more open to influencing the GOI policy decisions through (or due to positioning of) its sister organizations.
Anderson says, RSS wants Modi to be PM, but is not comfortable with Modi cult.. a person becoming bigger than the organization. This is however, not a Modi specific position but a general principle of RSS - individual is not (or should not be) bigger than the organization.
According to Anderson, RSS does not want to build Rama-janmabhumi Temple through legislation - that is, it does not want to bypass the Supreme Court. Ram Temple is essentially VHP agenda but RSS does not want VHP to be lead by people like Pravin Togadia. Yogi Adityanath is not an RSS man and RSS was rather surprised by his induction as a CM.
All in all, RSS is promoting a moderate and inclusive nationalism according to Andersen.

Jul 6, 2018

A Politically Correct Hindutva

Excellent presentation of politically correct Hindutva though a theologian in me may find few minor mistakes. The movement in 1920s which Tharoor talks about disapprovingly should look at this presentation with benign amusement and approval... Here is the YouTube link to the presentation-cum-interview and the subsequent question-answer session: Dr. Shashi Tharoor on Hinduism’s origins and its philosophical concepts

May 28, 2018

Why is Pakistan not a secular country?

This is an answer I read on Quora forum by a Kashmiri called Mohan Dudha. I had known the ideological position on which Pakistan is formed and had also known Allama Iqbal's ex post-facto role as an ideologue of Pakiatsn. Dudha's answer is however provides the details. I only hope that he is both right and wrong -- right (in analysis) and wrong (in predictions). Read on:

Complex questions require long answers.

The core concept of the Pakistan Ideology is that Islam is the foundation of nationhood. In its purest form, this means that Muslims and non-Muslims can never share citizenship in a single nation because, for Muslims, their real citizenship is Islam and nothing else.

Iqbal was absolutely clear in this: “Objection must, however, be raised when it is contended that in modern times nations are formed by lands and the Indian Muslims are advised to accept this view. Such advice brings before our minds the Western modern conception of nationalism, to one aspect of which it is absolutely essential for a Muslim to take exception. […] After getting the name of ummat-Muslimah from the Court of God, was there any room left for merging part of the form of our society into some Arabian, Iranian, Afghani, English, Egyptian or Indian nationality? There is only one millat confronting the Muslim community, that of the non-Muslims taken collectively.”

This is why none of the “Pakistani” heroes are actually Pakistani themselves. Muhammad bin Qasim, Tamerlane, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Babur, Muhammad Ghori, Salahuddin. None of them were Pakistani. However, because the core of the Pakistan Ideology is that Muslims form one nation, they are Pakistanis. I have myself had bizarre exchanges with Pakistanis on Quora. Cheemas, Chauhans and other Hindu lastnamed people who talk about themselves as though they are descended from these invaders and raiders. As an Indian, this is weird: They are basically Hindu by descent and their forefathers were the people who fought these enemies. But as a Pakistani, that is irrelevant. Conversion to Islam, for these people, severed their ancestral nationality. Mohammad Ghori killed Prithviraj Chauhan (after Chauhan defeated him and had let him go), and Khokhar Hindus killed Ghori in revenge soon thereafter. But Pakistani Chauhans and Khokhars idolise Ghori, not their own Khokhar and Chauhan ancestors. For an Indian, you cannot understand this because the worldview is just so different. You see them say something like “we ruled for 800 years,” which translates to something truly weird like “I have become the same people as the invaders who gained control over my ancestors, therefore I conquered my own ancestors.” It’s not going to compute for Indians. North Indians, especially, will see Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who is basically Bhatti (Rajput) and scratch their heads. The man’s actually a Hindu by descent. Again, won’t compute if you simply think that religion is a personal matter, but it will compute if you view it through Islamism (watered down in the case of Bhutto, but still there).

Indians and Pakistanis sometimes view each other and think they are similar countries, due to ethnolinguistic similarities. They are not at all. They are so different now as to be utterly foreign to one-another. Frankly, Iranians and Afghans have no chance of truly understanding this either, because this demands that they stop viewing themselves as legitimate nations as well. Pakistani ideologues were extremely specific in their demand that different Muslim countries should dissolve themselves into a single Muslim nation: “Butaan-e-rang-o-khoon ko todkar millat mein gum ho jaa, Naa Turaani rahe baaqi, na Irani na Afghani” (Smash the idols of race and lineage and dissolve yourself into the Islamic Nation, No Turanian should exist, No Iranian, No Afghan, Tulu-e-Islam, The Rise of Islam).

This is similar to what we would call Islamism today, which says Muslims are one nation and government in the Muslim nation should be run according to strict Muslim principles. Islamism is the core ISIS ideology as well (forget their barbarism for a second): Islam equals Nationhood. This is what inspired the driving out of the 25% Hindu and Sikh population of the territory that is Pakistan today to turn it into the 97% Muslim population it is today. This is the ideology of the Taliban also.

Jinnah flip-flopped between Islamism and Secularism, so you can easily find quotes from him supporting Islamism and Secularism. But the core of the Pakistan Ideology is that “Islam defines Nation” and this is why he said:

“Pakistan came into being the day when the first Hindu was converted to Islam” (March 1944, Aligarh). Iqbal specifically warned against any dilution of Islamism - “Jalal-e-badshahi ho ki jamhoori tamasha ho, Juda ho deen siyasat say to reh jatee hai changezi” (Whether kingly rule or democratic circus, removing religion from politics leaves mere anarchy). In Pakistan, this has created a great mobilisation to become more Islamic - whether discarding pre-Islamic, Hindu customs like Basant, or discouraging Punjabi and replacing it with the “more Islamic” Urdu, or scrubbing the language to replace the non-religious “Khuda Hafiz” with the more Islamic “Allah Hafiz.” Before 1971, this was also the source of a big disconnect between Bengalis and Pakistanis. Pakistanis simply could not understand why Bengalis wouldn’t simply abandon “the Hindu Bengali language” and adopt the more “Islamic Urdu.”

The problem, of course, is that Islamism (Islam meaningfully enshrined as National Self-Concept) is fundamentally incompatible with Democracy and Secularism. Pakistan’s slow slide into extremism was inevitable. The exact same thing will happen with ANY country that has a functional state religion, because it is a movement to actually bring the politics in alignment with the founding principle. This can only be arrested through sustained authoritarianism because, without it, a second state will inevitably emerge due to the widespread indoctrination of the people. Once this has set in, making a switch away from the National Ideology is close to impossible, unless something traumatic happens or some truly phenomenal leader appears and rules for an entire generation, or some other unprecedented externality (the Internet getting wired directly into human brains, causing everyone to be exposed to lots of diverse ideas constantly) occurs. Barring any of this, it seems likely that Pakistan will actually eventually have to accommodate the Talibani elements in the country politically. To simply fight them forever is not an option. In fact, evidence is that this has driven them into the arms of ISIS, with which they share political ideology (indeed, consider themselves to be citizens of the same Islamic nation).

So, it is likely that the future will see Pakistan becoming less secular, not more so. It is possible that some political brokering creates more secular and less secular sectors - socially, geographically or in some other way - in the country. This is essentially two states trying to avoid conflict by dividing a country between themselves. Indians should concede this reality. Educated Pakistanis are often in denial that any of this is happening, but it absolutely is. Simplistic, people-centered things like “Zia did xyz” or “India was lucky to have Nehru live on for a bit” are just so wrong. India was going to be a democracy no matter what. It is consistent with our civilisation and traditions. I should also note that there is absolutely nothing that says that Muslims have to believe the Pakistan Ideology or Islamism. It’s just an ideology. If you don’t think that way, you won’t be an adherent of it. The vast majority of Indian Muslims think it is rubbish. Some British Muslims, however, do not (Muslim Parliament of Great Britain - Wikipedia).

Apr 14, 2018

Advaita: A Contemporary Study (2nd Edition)

This is the second edition of "Advaita: A Contemporary Study"
In addition to establishing Advaita's connectivity with social justice and with Yoga's classical value system, it also presents two modern theories - one about consciousness and the other about cyclic Universe. These theories are juxtaposed against the Advaita's theology to see if there are any meeting points in their respective metaphysics. The text is available on following sites.
(a) Advaita on Createspace (Amazon)
(b) Advaita on pothi.com

Mar 13, 2018

Why I am a Hindu

Shashi Tharoor Interview by Barakha Dutt: @ Why I am a Hindu

It is nice to see that some Congressmen are now openly acknowledging their Hindu moorings.

In the interview, Barkha Dutt does ask some probing questions but she has obvious limitations.. by her own admission she is deracinated.

Tharoor seeks to highlight (after 19.20 minutes of the video) the so called contradiction between PM Narendra Modi's statement that "constitution is his holy scripture" and Deendayal Upadhyay's idea of nation where he gives primacy to the people, their history, culture, and philosophy.

Can Tharoor deny that it is the people of India who solemnly resolved to "constitute" India as a sovereign republic? Was idea of India non-existent before the year 1950 when the written constitution became effective? Are ancient textual references to Bharata and Aryavarta are without any geocultural content? Is it not the fact that democracy based on the universal suffrage is much more successful in India than in the surrounding countries and many other states in Asia and Africa due to syncretic Indian (Hindu) culture?

There were people who believed in the ancient wisdom of वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् (Earth - all those who dwell on earth - are one family) as in the महोपनिषद्. They also believed in एकम् सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति (Wise people say one Truth in many ways) as in ऋग्वेद. Non-violence was their article of faith according to Jaina and Bauddha Agamas but they could wage war for dharma (righteousness) in the face of death and destruction as taught by भगवद्गीता. These people happened to stay in the Indian subcontinent but their philosophy transcended geography. They were forced to carve out the landmass of present India because believers of "one-Book, one-God, and one (last) Prophet" refused to stay with them. Geography was important to these (Hindu) people -  but their philosophy - pantheism, integral humanism, non-dualism or whatever name we may give - transcended the territorial boundaries. This Hindu philosophy manifested in myriad ways where geography - rivers, mountains, seas, flora and fauna - attained divinity. This geography had no strict boundaries.. all earth-dwellers were after all one family! This is the teaching of Integral Humanism - nothing but another form of Advaita Vedanta (Vedic non-dualism) combining the holistic outlooks of (a) Vedic पुरुषार्थ and पंचमहायज्ञ, and (b) Bauddha outlook of द्वादश निदान or प्रतीत्य समुत्पाद. Both are integrally Hindu.

If Deendayal-ji was alive today he would have seen no contradiction in treating Indian Constitution as a holy scripture of the chief executive of India (Prime Minister) and his own philosophy of Integral Humanism. Since PM has taken the oath in the name of constitution, he has to work within its boundaries - both territorial as well as judicial.. however, the framework of Integral Humanism and Indian Constitution is one and the same barring the territorial boundaries.

Deendayal-ji conceives the national soul (chiti) as a unifying thread. Advaita Vedanta too conceives such a soul in its "individuation-aggregation" pedagogy (व्यष्टि-समष्टि प्रक्रिया). In Advaita however, this aggregated soul has no-self (I-ness or ego).. it is a pedagogical device to teach the unity of being. The ultimate Reality (Brahman) of Advaita is attributeless - without mind, causality, doership or consumership. It is anti-conceptual and yet, oxymoronically the ground of Being (Brrihad 3.8.8-9). These subtle metaphysical differences between Advaita Vedanta and Integral Humanism are not important. What is important is that the general framework of Indian Constitution, Advaita, and Integral Humanism is one and the same. I personally find no problem with social contract theory either. IMO, Upanishads and Bhagavadgita provide a solid ground to any egalitarian theory based on preamble principles of social justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. (See my article here). Hindu basic texts - Upanishad, Gita, Yogasutra, and Agamas provide basis for Nehruvian agnostic socialism, Gandhian theist socialism, Indian communism without injected class conflict, and compassionate capitalism. Adherence to truth and goals ensures that merit is not compromised.