11/21/2021 Post 101
Let us look at a core concept of vedanta that is viveka- wisdom – . It was explained by Shankaracharya in vivekachudamani. Let us look at it from a social point of view. This is my interpretation not that of acharyas. The religious views try to find absolute truth – Atman , the self. But we will look at its use in our life,our work and our education.
Let us start with what is Viveka.
Jnana Yoga defines it as Viveka – Discrimination
Viveka is the purest form of knowledge. It can also be described as the supreme authority of our conscience. Our conscience tells us what is right and what is wrong. Mostly we know very well what we should do, however, our egoistic desires generally show themselves as stronger and drown the voice of conscience within us.
Discrimination or viveka – this describes the cultivation of the ability to discern between what it real and what is not real, as well as between what is the self and what is not the self.
Viveka is a Sanskrit term that can be translated as “right understanding,” “discrimination” or “discrimination knowledge.” It is one of the four attributes of a spiritual disciple. It is the ability to differentiate between the real and unreal, eternal and temporary, Self and non-Self, pleasure and bliss. It is a spiritual practice of realizing the Truth and the Soul.
Before try to understand Viveka , we need to understand some concepts like reality, avidya , maya, mitya etc. We will go one by one . This is not a religious look but a social look relevant for finding problems, understanding them correctly – truefully – and in depth with Viveka, finding ways of solving them and arriving at correct decisions.
Let us see what is the concept of real and unreal ? Unreal here means ignorance and lesser understanding . It does not mean non-existence. Existence is there but we don’t know it. Existence is not permanent.
Remember that we solve many problems in our daily life . We have to make several decisions like what to buy, what to cook, how to cook, how to travel etc. We need to apply Viveka in our reasoning and in arriving at decisions. Differentiation and discrimination are crucial in understanding the full reality of a problem we want to solve. Let me take one example – this was told to me by shivarama karanth . He and his brother cultivated pineapple. When they tried to sell it ,there were not many buyers – realty one. The market price was less than production cost – reality two- . So they decided to do value addition by making jam and selling it. When they made jam and went to the market. Their shock – the market price of jam was less than the cost of the tin the brothers purchased to put the jam inside. That is reality three. So they met with failure. The reason is they did not understand reality. Our experts will say they didn’t have market data. But our vedanta gives a generic term called reality or truth – satya.
Reality for a person is the sum total of knowledge and its application to solve or decide on problems encountered. Reality for each is dependent on the level of ignorance of that person. More knowledge leads to better understanding ; more reasoning leads to better judgments.
This post gives a different interpretation and needs effort to understand. So I welcome doubts and questions.
We will discuss reality in science and engineering in the next post.
11/23/2021 Post 102
Let us continue on the concept of reality further in science. Research won’t happen if everything is known and defined – no avidya, no maya. But we know that lots of unknowns and illusions exist.
Adam Grant has a core message in his book” Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know — “namely that in a post-pandemic lens we need to be willing to re-examine our prejudices, imagine new ways of solving problems and listen, with empathy to alternative points of view —. This is acceptance of ignorance. Does science has no ignorance?
Science discovers facts and interactions which exist but are not known and reasons on the truth of the discovered fact based on existing and available – known – methods. Gravitational force existed before Newton ,but Newton discovered it. Nyaya vaiseshika talks about gurutva as a guna, property. It looks much older than Newton’s discovery.Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika.—According to Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, gurutva (heaviness) is the twelfth quality (guṇa). It is a general quality. Praśastapāda states in his bhāṣya that gurutva is the quality of water and earth and it is the cause of the act of falling. ( This act of falling and heaviness leads to considering it as gravity. This term is used gravity in Kannada and may be other languages.). It is invisible but it is inferable through the action of falling. This quality is opposite of saṃyoga, prayatna and saṃskāra
Still we don’t know what gravity is?. We see its effects in a waterfall. We don’t know how and why gravity changes with height. So science lives in ignorance and illusion on many aspects. Slowly research and evidence brings in facts and sometimes corrects some facts. The biggest examples are the concepts that earth is the centre of the universe; earth is flat;. Later on it was shown that earth is spherical , sun is in the centre and earth goes around the sun; energy comes from sun etc. It took centuries for the west to know and understand large numbers. We learnt that the universe is more than the solar system. It has several galaxies and space is limitless. Limitless concept is the basis for Brahman. Still we don’t know what is inside a black hole. Do we understand climatic occurrences fully? We can’t correctly predict cyclonic movements , and accuracy of predictions is poor. It is not that scientists are bad but the magnitude of problems is huge.
There exist still many unknowns for science to unravel. We are slowly understanding the features of the moon and Mars now.
Even known concepts are not fully understood. What is gravitational force? What is its source of energy? Where does it get it from? How do we convert it to other forms? How cosmic energy is created , transmitted and distributed? Can we control it?
Periodic table brought a major understanding of elements. Atomic theory also has made considerable progress. But all these are happening steadily and slowly
There is a lot of work on superconductivity, absolute zero temperature, and subatomic particles. The progress is slow. Most scientists don’t know the progress of work in many areas. They mostly have a focussed and limited knowledge of their area in some depth. We are slowly accepting the facts that many activities are uncertain and the world behaves in a random way. My aim is not to criticize science and scientists but to show the limitations of its reality.
The next aspect is science uses mathematics a lot to solve its problems and understand actions, reactions and behaviours. So the need for finding a solution is important . So we go for feasible solutions by assumptions and axioms and conjectures .
The major aspect of science and engineering is they try to model a complex problem by simplifying it through many assumptions like determinate, continuous , linear , etc. Even discreteness or digital is a recent acceptance of quantum science . These assumptions give us a solution which can be proved in many real life situations. But it breaks down in some situations. Einstein has to come up with a new relativity theory and modify Newton’s equations by building a relationship between mass and energy. Electricity was unknown till late 18 th century. Electronics and computers were unknown till 1940 .
So it means that science has a lot of unknowns and has to do a lots of sharpening the existing theories. While science is building an increasing universe of reality based on limits on learning and understanding, ; but reality is limitless.
There are many unknowns in health and medicine. We don’t understand our body and our immune system fully. We are not clear how we think. Most solutions in health, nutrition, food and medicine are empirical based on small surveys. There is still a lot of avidya existing with scientists in many areas . Many theories have also been shrouded by maya – illusion , wrong understanding and misunderstanding . We have some knowledge and think it is a lot ,but we don’t know a lot. What we know is a handful ,what we don’t know is universeful. Humility is needed. We need to look beyond what we know to discover new realities. Science has focussed , localized and compartmental views going into a topic deeper. It is a worm’s view. But vedanta gives a universal view. Vedanta accepts the fact there is a lot of avidya and it is necessary to remove that.
Let us look at engineering in the next post.
11/25/2021 Post 103
Engineering builds things of use to society based on scientific principles and theories. It believes in finding practical answers to problems faced by society like water supply, energy, transportation, roads and dams and buildings etc. Engineers are satisfied with a working product. They makes approximations in analysing solutions or building products. So the answers may not be correct in many instances . There are thousands of examples of new discoveries.
Let us look at a few. Electrical power networks were considered balanced and linear. This changed later with load flows and stability studies. Resonance and ferro resonance were based on failures happening in the system. Even now we find the major cause of fire is short circuits and loose contacts. Similarly mechanical engineering has used approximations to study and design boilers to machines. It is not easy to model traditional chulas or mud pots. Why do we have a factor of safety in the design of products? We are not clear or precise or confident of the many gunas of the components used in the product.
Computer science believes in the use of limiting as a safe mechanism for solutions. We use domain and scope for variables in a program for reduction of errors. It is standard now. We call negation an unsafe operator in databases. Limiting the universe under consideration leads to easy solutions. AI is successful as a specific domain AI and general AI is yet to see the light of the day. AI does a single task. Humans do many tasks, even unexpected ones and come up with new solutions. AI is nowhere near humans. General AI is not even on a drawing board. It is a dream Expert systems have a focus on one speciality only. We don’t have a generalised expert system.
So the situation is more primitive with social sciences like economics, behaviour science etc. Take the case of stock market. We can’t predict correctly most of the time. There are very few success stories like Warren Buffett and Rakesh Junjhunwala. Many regular players loose money. Why? Our understanding suffers from two aspects:
1.limited views despite the availability of data , subjective and biased approaches and
2. Uncertainties or randomness.
Same is true with retail and finance- banking .
So all these prove advaitic theories of illusion, errors, ignorance and randomness.
While we have a level of imagination which is small, our vedanta had a big universal picture to define our behaviours. Astonishing right.
Till the beginning of 20 th century, most people had a very limited view of world – their home, family, village, and agriculture. They focussed on survival. City people had a bigger view. All depended on access to information and knowledge as well as interest. How many of us know about the history and geology of South American countries or even west Indies or migration of Indians ? The world view slowly expanded . We know about many cities, countries, nature and environment, industries, travel etc. We still live in ignorance of other people , their lives and reasons for successes and failures, as well as natural disasters like climate change, pandemics like COVID, floods , unsustainable population growth and great belief in GDP and not on happiness , gratitude and support. Industries fail because the leaders live in their internal world and ignore the disruptive innovation happening elsewhere or they don’t know about their customers and their choices.
Limited views allows only jugaad incremental changes . Vision will be very short, not long range. We need to address this for greater understanding. Climate change won’t be a problem if we respect nature and live frugally . Greed needs to go. Pollution , garbage may not be a problem . We are all tube lights – very slow to realise impacts. There is a strong link with nature and engineering which is not understood by us and ignored by us. We will know the impact of software and AI only after their attacks are visible. We are lapping up crypto currency without realising impacts. When do we get wisdom – Viveka – and vision? Remember – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and lokas samastha sukhino bhavanthu. Do we follow them and act on them?
Let us see what Gaudapada and Bhartrhari said about reality?
Gaudapada insists very strongly on the illusory or phenomenal character of the world, and claims that in this he is only following an earlier tradition for the interpretation of the upanishadic texts. The existence of earlier followers of the Upanishads who held this view is confirmed by Bhartrhari,late fifth century, who writes: ‘The adherents of the Upanishads (Vedantins) hold that only the substratum is real, while subject, object and act of empirical cognition are all imagined’. Gaudapada says: ‘Those who are experts in the upanishadic wisdom look upon this world as if it were a cloud-city seen in a dream’. The sages who have gone beyond fear, attachment and anger have the direct experience of the truth of non-duality, in which all plurality and illusion vanishes.
11/27/2021 Post 104
The previous two posts had a lot of points. It needs more attention to read and understand. They look at vedanta in a different way with relevance to our illusive world and our perception of reality.
Mr Muralidharan of Tatas has this comment.
Multiple complex thoughts, all in one post. Had to go through a few times to grasp the embedded facts.
Thanks and best regards”
So I will try to put together the takeaways in the previous two posts. We saw a lot of examples from science, engineering ,social sciences and AI to prove that our knowledge is limited but keeps on increasing. Still, the unknowns are very huge . Our visions are narrow. We look inward – worms’ views.
We essentially try to look at the following to define Viveka.
We live with behaviours, strong beliefs ,habits and ego which limit our vision and our world destroying a great opportunity for development and happiness. So we stay forever in the lower orbit. We don’t fly high. We are living in a small world of ours and thinking of ourselves and believing that everything we know is total and real . Ego is high. It is ignorance and misbeliefs. Universe is Limitless – anantham Brahman in Taittiriya upanishad. Only Brahman is real. All others including the universe are not permanent. So Descartes statement can be changed to
I think big , so I am. That is the way to encounter AI.
We are looking inward and thinking all are ok and we are safe . Not true – illusion. This leads to incremental changes. We can’t predict disasters and take precautions. We need a very Broad universal vision – futuristic ,look at all aspects. Imagine big.
Analyse and anticipate.
Be wise. Have humility. Prepare to learn more.
We need wisdom .
Based on these I propose a new axiom
Ethics – gratitude, paropakaram, broad outlook, forgiveness, ahimsa,respect to all including nature , eagerness to learn – pays. It is not a liability but a great asset. So teach these ethical aspects formally.
11/29/2021 Post 105
There are many comments from Mahendra Babu, Bala Ajjampur, AL Sriram , MGPL Narayana and B Sambamurthy . Some are quite deep.
Let us look at them one by one.
Mr Bala Ajjampur has the following comments.
“It is my belief that more understanding also leads to a better understanding of the depth of ignorance that we have or the presence of ignorance that we were unaware of. More reasoning similarly leads to a better understanding of the loopholes in the systems that we have created to serve humanity to embrace a more civilized world.”
“However, all these understandings will continue to remain as an idea or a theorem without the necessary tools needed to implement the corrections. Hence we tend to give up on such understandings as the moment of inertia created by the systems and the adaptation of the same by a large number, makes us feel that it is impossible to surmount within our. That is why I think we need tools that facilitate changes in systems easily without doing any harm to those served by those systems.”
He has a question :
“Question is, which bhodha will help us in this quest?”
Well , vedanta is a philosophy. It tells us that our knowledge is small. It gives broad directions. Have humility. Look for a radically different and highly imaginative approach to analyse and solve problems. Find a complete universal model. Don’t worry it has no solutions. It is not quantitative. We don’t have data etc. Allow your imagination to flourish, discover problems, scenarios , impacts, future possibilities, etc. No limitations on products, materials, technologies, principles, cost , feasibility etc. No modeling at this stage. Look for impacts on environments, acceptance by people ,etc. Consider you have an Arabian desert , then add a lot of things. Don’t be constrained – “this can be done ” should be the motto. Apply Neti rule to give a completeness of description of the situation considered by you.
As regards tools, vedanta tells you how do you prepare to look at a situation and not how you solve it. Detailed techniques have been developed by many over centuries. From the time of vedas, many techniques and methods were developed . We saw number systems, infinity, geometry, algebra, astronomy, sculpture, temple construction, botany, human biology, animal sciences, mind and allied sciences, food, agriculture, logic systems, metallurgy, warfare, implements, thermodynamics, health, yoga , immune systems and nadi, diseases, Ayurveda , surgery etc . These were separately developed and discussed separately by many people over thousands of years. The six darshanas started this kind of scholarship. Samkya dealt with numbers. Nyaya dealt with logic. Later on Aryabhatta dealt with numbers and astronomy. Bhaskara was an expert in solving equations. So we need to look at many books to arrive at tools . Tattva bodha tells us about the basic preparations required. We will see these four requirements including six sampaths later in the continuing discussions on Advaita.
Mr Bala has another comment:
“The other way of looking at plurality vanishing is to look at the concept of knowledge being as one when many were able to understand it through vedas. By those who could not, it got broken down to several pieces and as time went by, the pieces took on their own life and now we are finding it difficult to put them back as one again. So whether it is advaita from dvaita or dvaita from advaita does not matter anymore as it is not possible to say that with any certainty. With that in mind, the question is whether they both can coexist and assist all those who are in pursuit of truth.
I hope I am making sense. Thanks.”
My comment is to the last part.
While there are many expositions by many acharyas and scholars on Advaita , there are only a few on Dvaita and vishishtadvaita in English. So my knowledge on Dvaita and visishtadvaita is poor. Secondly ,I accept differences amongst many groups as normal and do not consider them as divisive – believed by westerners. My understanding is-
Advaita shows jnana marga as primary and bhakti as suited to many . Dwaita gives importance to both, but believes in bhakti and in saguna Brahman that is krishna. Visishtadvaita gives primacy to bhakti. All three accept temple worship . There are philosophical differences in visualising Atman and Brahman – Are they one and the same or different. There are also differences in sampradayas. We have a lot of sampradayas. But that happens even within Vaishnava groups itself. These are magnified by many. Since bhakti marga is acceptable to and followed by most , I think that is the unifying factor .
His third comment :
“‘Ethics pays and is a great asset’ should become a mantra to move a lethargic mind new awakenings.”
It should awaken governments fighting against reforms for climate change reductions. They are on a highly destructive path.
12/01/2021 Post 106
Prof Mahendra Babu has a comment.
Thank you for a series of writings.
i have this doubt.
I appreciation the knowledge passed on to us from great aacharyas like Sankara , Ramanujarand so on. All are more than a thousand years old.
Even recently Jagath Guru Kirupalu Maharaj of Mathura used to give discourses on Samskar channel in Hindi. His bhajans are mostly on Radha maiya in Vraja dialect.
WE also know that many of our scripts have been lost and destroyed by invaders and rulers of different faith.
Velukkudi Krishnan swamigal well versed in Tamil, Sanskrit and English is doing a good job as pracharak of Vishnavite sect.
To my knowledge some philosophers like Dr Radhakrishnan and many university professors might have written on Indian philosophy>
If you know some body both aware of science and philosophy written books in English on Indian philosophy with practical applications let me know.
Is it not our duty to enrich books on Sanatana Dharma which could be understood by a common man with practical examples. You have given some of course..
Otherwise the Sanatana will find it hard to retail the name “endless”
Just my thinking.
I agree with your comments. You seem to have great interest in these aspects. We as a community felt Hinduism is bad as it supports caste system, animals sacrifice and superstitions and hence rejected these concepts of Dharma without knowing what is in them . Our hatred for all things old and Hindu and our guilt due to wrong understanding made us to ignore these treasures. Fortunately ,many dedicated scholars over centuries preserved , interpreted, analysed, and wrote bhashyas about these scriptures. Their knowledge, dedication and belief were remarkable. Many foreign scholars showed a lot of interest and translated many shastras. We had many great saints and reformers writing on sanatana Dharma like swami vivekananda, and Ramakrishna mutt swamies, swami sivananda, Chinmayananda and his disciples, Arabindo ghosh, many swamies of shringeri , kanchi and other mutts , Appayya Dikshitar, Swamy Dayananda, swami Sadananda, swami vidyaranya ,Sayana ,Gargesha and many scholars like Dr Radhakrishnan, prof TMP Mahadevan , D V Gundappa, and Prof Hiriyanna of Mysore and many more .There are hundreds of books and scientific papers which bring out many concepts in a scientific way. Motilal Banarasidas published many books on Hinduism for centuries. Many journals exist on Hinduism , religions , culture, sociology, logic , astrology, and philosophy. There are hundreds of websites ,most having English write ups.
I have referred to more than 60 books, many papers and many websites.
While most religions were based on beliefs, sanatana Dharma is based on truth and knowledge. Scientific thinking started from the beginning.
While vedas provided a framework and understanding of world, society , life and ethics, Upanishads provided a formal philosophical foundation to the vedic concepts. Then we saw the six darshanas – Samkya, yoga, nyaya, vaiseshika , mimamsa and vedanta emerge with many scholars looking for reasoning and proving concepts. These are more theory oriented. Then we had navya nyaya developed by many. Mathematics, astronomy, geometry , metallurgy and other disciplines also developed . We can’t ignore that many practical disciplines like carpentry, construction, foundries, textiles also developed alongside. Let us not ignore Ayurveda, medicine and surgery.
Pranayama has been studied neurologically and its effects are analysed. Yoga and Ayurveda have been established as disciplines of science.
Some work has been going on for centuries on formalising logic. There is still lot more that needs to be done. Chomsky accepted Panini and his grammar. Advaita is analysed by many over centuries. Most universities in India think there is no research material available in Sanskrit scriptures. Most work is done in western universities. Most western universities have a Sanskrit department which have done good research on sanatana Dharma. There are also departments of religion in many universities.
We also have good Sanskrit departments in most universities , but none on Hinduism.
12/03/2021 Post 107
Mr AL Sriram has the following comment and request:
“Is telepathy one such phenomenon, where Rishis could communicate with each other / amongst themselves ( eg. Ramana Maharishi told Paul Brunton that he is aware that Paramacharya of Kanchi had sent him [PB] to meet him, which amazed Paul B. )? There seems to be no scientific basis to explain the phenomenon. Also it is said that Brahmavidhya is the ultimate knowledge. Does this fit into the concept of this post?”
There are numerous instances of the awareness and telepathic experiences of kanchi paramacharya have been documented by many. He is aware of the thinking of many people. He remembers lakhs of people and their families. But unfortunately we do not have a scientific explanation and understanding of telepathy. Our understanding is not good. A good example is the neuro kinetic actions done in experiments. There are many research activities in progress to understand the thoughts of a person. Stephen Hawking had a machine to help him and clarify his speech.
People are trained to act and react now. Hope more research will be happening in this area. Cognition research also helps in this. Most research is done in isolation by many disciplines. We need an integrated multidisciplinary approach. Hope the centre for brain research set up at IISc with major support from Kris Gopalakrishnan will take up path breaking work in this area.
Regarding your second query on Brahma vidya, there are two aspects.
One deals with Brahma vidya as a study of Brahman. We have been seeing it in many posts particularly in Taittiriya upanishad.
A second approach is to look at the upanishad – brahmavidya upanishad. This also discusses Brahman. We have already seen some of the concepts in our discussions on dasa sloki and Taitriya upanishad.
Let us look at brahmavidya upanishad briefly.
Brahma Vidya Upanishad is the 40th among the 108 Upanishads. It contains 110 verses and is connected with Krishna Yajur Veda. Yet another version of this Upanishad containing 14 verses is found attached to Atharva Veda.
The supreme science of Brahman is the monosyllable -a e u m- Om, as declared by the expounders of Vedanta.
There is an explanation of guru.
Guru :One should serve the person who grants the knowledge of Hamsa Vidya. The disciple should take command of the Guru irrespective of the outcome. Whether the command gives pleasure or pain to him, the disciple should execute the mandate without any hesitation. By constant attendance to his Guru, the disciple should acquire the knowledge of Hamsa vidya from him. Having thus obtained the knowledge, he should renounce the world, as he gets rid of the dust of his feet. He should renounce all the relationships with his body, his kith and kin, Varnas (caste), ashram (life discipline), Vedas, Sastras (Scriptures) and everything. He should develop the devotion to Guru who is Lord Hari himself.
The Guru plays the roles of a practitioner, awakener, and bestower of liberation. As a practitioner, he shows the pupil the path of practicing meditation. As an awakener, he awakens the Atman of the pupil towards the realisation. A Guru becomes the bestower of liberation by making the pupil liberated by imparting to him the reality of the existence of Brahman in everything.
Brahmavidya is that branch of scriptural knowledge derived primarily through a study of the Upanishads, Brahma Sūtras and Bhagavad Gita. Derived from the sanskrit words brahma and vidyā, brahman is the neuter gender of the root word-form brih that means big. As the word big has not been further qualified to reveal its dimension, we have to understand that brahman the word means that which is free from all forms of limitation. Vidya is derived from the root vid, which means to know, hence the word vidya means knowledge. Brahma Vidya therefore means knowledge of that which is free from all forms of limitation. Brahmavidya is the spiritual knowledge of the Absolute. Brahmavidya is considered to be the highest ideal of classical Indian thought.
Swami Sivananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society opines that Brahmavidya is the “Science of sciences” or the “Science of the Absolute”.
There is a complete definition of Brahman and it should be constantly in our view while meditating.
I am not copying the complete definition of Brahman here. If you want me , I will copy it here in a future post.
12/05/2021 Post 108
Mr MGPL Narayana has comments and explanations
Let us look at them.
“This is a great analysis and look forward to receive on this topic. Reality is limitless. Our understanding fact is shaped by the extent of reality we perceive and comprehend.”
“There is a famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld (2002)
“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.””
“..and each year we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns”
“And it is here that I envision that we can reassure people in IT/software industry that they have limitless opportunities for creativity and not to be taken over by robotic coding that they are afraid of!”
Quite nice. A different way of looking at reality.
According to Rumsfeld – quote from his book, ” knowns and unknowns “-
“Known knowns are facts, rules, and laws that we know with certainty. We know, for example, that gravity is what makes an object fall to the ground.”
“Known unknowns are gaps in our knowledge, but they are gaps that we know exist. We know, for example, that we don’t know the exact extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. If we ask the right questions we can potentially fill this gap in our knowledge, eventually making it a known known.”
Let us quote Socretes
Socrates: “I neither know nor think that I know.” This has been interpreted to mean that the beginning of wisdom is the realization of how little one truly knows.
Let us start looking at unknowns. Known unknowns are research areas.
Some examples of real life problems are
1.Known -Corona virus
Unknown -How it started and what are the cures?
2.Known – poverty exists.
Unknown – how to eradicate poverty?
3.Known – border problem with china.
Unknown – why does this problem keep happening? What is the reality? What is the solution?
Unknown unknowns are neglected areas and need very deep thinking and great attention. Don’t just teach knowns . We need to address unknowns. We need to move away from our comfort zones.
Change mindsets. The following quote shows our mindset.
“Those who believe that what you cannot quantify does not exist also believe that what you can quantify, does.”
We focus only on quantitative aspects and leave qualitative aspects .
Unknowns are more important. Ask students to list and we will get millions of unknowns. That is problem generation. Our education should concentrate on these unknowns.
I would like to look at it differently.
What happens is -everyone creates a mini world view and works in it. He or she is not aware of or not interested in actions outside one’s mini world mini world of a person will keep changing with time. True there are millions of mini worlds. But if you sum them up for all beings, it will still be very small compared to the reality. That means unknown unknowns are very large . You have mountains to cross before reaching a good sized world . That is the problem to be addressed not known facts and solutions like structuring, formalism , quantitative approaches etc. These reduce our world view.
Our rishis, saints and acharyas concentrated on unknowns. To a large extent , vedas looked at the known world and to some extent on the unknown universe. But Upanishads looked at unknowns mostly. Darshanas and vedanta particularly created a mechanism for reasoning and finding the truth.
My feeling is that we build a highly constrained view of problems by constructing formal mathematical approximate approaches to known situations. First, we need to look for non formal approaches – not just solutions- for known situations and later start understanding unknowns.
As you said this means we have millions of possibilities and opportunities for researchers.
12/07/2021 Post 109
There are three comments on unknowns. I will look at them before seeing Mr Samba murthy’s comments. There is a suggestion from Dr R N Mathur which we will take up in sequence.
Mr Y B Ramakrishna has the following comment.
“Sir, Good morning. Exploring the unknown unknowns – Is this what is out of the box thinking. When we do that the box of known expands and we get more space for creation.”
Thanks for your comment looking at another view.
I will not classify it as out of the box thinking. Out of the box is a methodology like look beyond. It cautions you not to be totally immersed in your internal world making you a frog in the well but look outside and see what is happening and how do you change accordingly and grab opportunities. But unknowns is a overall holistic philosophy . you know an unknown only when you look outside and start thinking anew – out of box. Looking for reality is going for unknown unknowns – multiple quantum leaps in our imagination and thinking . That has a phenomenal potential going present day knowledge and education. It is a vacuum or an Arabian dessert to be filled up. It needs a lot of inner thinking as expounded in Upanishads.
Prof T V Gopal has commented as:
“Thank you for the Post #108. It is indeed very nice that managerial sciences often times pitch in the Known -> Unknown zone to a point of asserting that “Known Devil is better than Unknown Angel”. – Dr. T V Gopal, Anna University”
Third comment in next post
12/09/2021 Post 110
Mr MGPL Narayana has more comments.
“Thanks for your post. Very reassuring that we have limitless possibilities/opportunities.
It is true we need to build in our society the culture of questioning. I am reminded of a quote, “Children enter school as question marks and leave schools as periods”. How do we develop that inquisitiveness?
Your question is extremely pertinent and relevant. We need to change our mindsets and our education system.
We learn from every person ,and everywhere, not just from school alone.. Nature is a great educator. Observation is the first step
Encouragement is missing. We discourage thinking by children by abusing those who ask questions. We think education in a school is great and declare most who can’t write as failures and at start itself, we have discouraged and eliminated a very large population from learning.
Knowledge comes from thinking and not from cramming. Knowledge comes from understanding and questioning Knowledge comes from looking everywhere, not just at the texts.
Knowledge comes from an unconstrained analysis. Gurukula system encouraged these aspects. The present school education kills these.
Knowledge comes from curiosity. Curiosity comes from questioning. So encourage questioning. Nachiketas as a young boy unafraid of death questioned yama. Yajnavalkya built the entire brihadaranyaka upanishad on hundreds of questions and answers. These open our eyes to the ways of learning and education . Curiosity comes from looking for unknowns.
Better understanding comes from discussions. So reduce lectures to less than 50% and create 50% of discussions by students based on nature, life,living, habits , food, behaviours, ethics, society, needs, harmony etc.
Encourage curiosity. If a teacher is not happy with this system of changes , he or she should quit.
Create question answer sessions with people, scholars and experts. Science is not endall. There is lot more to learn. Humanities is more important than science. Nature is more important than science. Religion and shastas not rituals are part of our life leading to enlightenment. Realism and quest for truth is much more important than all the above. The objective of learning is to find out the truth in every aspect ,not just problem solving. Problem solving gives you jobs; finding truth gives you life. Jobs without life – that is a robot – is not something we can think about and accept . Most of us are machines.
Life is full of surprises. We need to look more closely at mental life not just physical life .
There are some basic conditions for learning as enunciated by Shankaracharya. we will see them later.
Don’t compartmentalise education into disciplines. It was Pythagoras who divided disciplines into hard and soft sciences . Our ancients integrated mathematics and geometry and astronomy with languages , temple building , sculpture and living sciences
Philosophy provides a holistic approach. Good lawyers need to ask proper and pertinent questions and answer questions within a short time frame. How did they learn? Do we encourage reading many books by children. Reading a non text book every term is a must in our education system.
Why not reduce unknowns to each domain. That is restrict universe of discourse like say viruses or say gravity or black hole and then look for unknowns. Understanding will need to involve many disciplines in an unrestricted manner. Education should go from unknown to known, not the other way as it is now.
12/11/2021 Post 111
What does Advaita mean by non reality? It is a lot more than unknowns. We got diverted to discuss unknowns. It is relevant and useful. But unreality and unknowns are not the same. Unknowns is a part of unreality , myth .
Shankara says that the world of thought and matter is not real. He does not mean that it is non-existent. The world-appearance is and is not. In the state of ignorance,
it is experienced, and it exists as it appears. In the state of illumination, it is not experienced, and it ceases to exist. Shankara does not regard any experience as non-existent as long as it is experienced, but he very naturally draws a distinction between the private illusions of the individual and the universal or world-illusion.
Jagatmitya means that only Brahman is real, and all others including the world are unreal. This is a major departure from Dwaita and vishishtadvaita. Let us look at a complete view of what Sankara means by this.
It means that
It is illusion. You see a rope and think it is a snake. Feel the real fear as if it is a real snake. Your fear goes only when you find out it is a rope. So even experience is real. Maya is the word used. So it is called mayavada.
Similarly, there can be a change in one aspect. Consider the example. There is an yellow colored transparent glass and a cat is on the other side. The cat looks yellow to you when you look from this side of the glass. Again it is wrong. So this is mitya.
You see a river . At one instant you see something say fish at a point. Next instant, it is not there. Similarly, warter also moves. What you see now is not there in the next instant of time. So your complete description of a river is erroneous .
The world looks real. Sankara says it is not permanent.any changes take place with time – plants die, water level changes in a river or a well or tank, there is flood sometimes and drought some other time, climate changes. There are dynamic situations. So a unified view is not possible. Most activities are random. Hence, this is known as apparent reality.
There is also another maya – difference between I and Atman .
Unreality is at multiple levels. We are deceived by our senses . We don’t know how hot or cold water is on touch. We don’t remember details of a person we met like what he was wearing etc. Our eye sight is limited no where near the 256 gray levels of a computer or a distant vision like an eagle. Secondly, our mind deceives us. Pain they say is mental – you experience it but it is many times not real. Our ego clouds our understanding. Even at the intellect level, we reason wrongly. Our mindset and notions plus our limited knowledge lead to wrong understanding. But we believe that we know and our deduction is correct. So we see three levels of unreality. At the fourth level of ananda also, many people make themselves miserable by imagining a bad future.
Let us realize these unrealities and correct ourselves.
Human perception of the unitary and infinite brahman as the plural and finite is due to human beings’ innate habit of superimposition (adhyasa), by which a thou is ascribed to the I (I am tired; I am happy; I am perceiving). The habit stems from human ignorance (ajnana or avidya), which can be avoided only by the realization of the identity of brahman.
These concepts are defined as superimpositions. It is called Adhyasa.
Adhyāsa is the Sanskrit term for the superimposition or false attribution of properties of one thing on another thing.
According to Advaita Vedanta error arises on account of the superimposition of one reality on another. Adi Shankara defines Adhyasa as “the apparent presentation, to consciousness, by way of memory of something previously observed in some other thing”.
Adhyasa is the illusory appearance, in another place, of an object seen earlier elsewhere. It is similar in nature to recollection. For instance on seeing a rope in dim light and not recognizing it as a rope, a person mistakes it for a snake which he has seen elsewhere.
Brahman being mistaken for the world. On account of this ignorance the individual soul identifies itself with its adjuncts (Upadhis) viz. the body, senses, etc., which are only superimposed on it. This identification makes the soul think that it is the doer, enjoyer, etc.—though the truth is that it is none of these—and thereby it comes under the sway of birth, death, happiness, misery, etc., in short, becomes bound down to this world (Samsara).
When Sankara says that the world is false, he does not mean that it is absolutely nothing, but that our experience is liable to be stultified by means of knowledge of things as they are. The world has a relative existence; it is true for the time being, bnt disappears when true knowledge dawns. It is not real for all times, in other words, it is not real from the absolute standpoint. Maya or ignorance is not a real entity. We can neither say that it exists nor that it does not exist. It is a mystery which is beyond our understanding; it is unspeakable (Anir-vachaniya). As Maya is not real, it cannot be related to Brahman, the Reality, in any way whatsoever; for any relation between truth and falsehood is impossible.
I hope there is a better understanding of Jagat mithya now.
Unreality is not bad. It cautions us. It gives a greater explanation of avidya and makes us humble. Viveka is needed to look at and face every situation in the world .
12/13/2021 Post 112
There are more comments.
Mr. Srinivasan comments on learning from all
“When you write We learn from every person… It is a very correct statement.
Particularly applied science is learnt from people in lower rung.
Decades ago before Holi my servant filled the balloons with coloured water and allowed them to float in a tub . As he was pouring the surplus water in the tub he explained that other wise the ones down below would break because of the ones on the top.
I found my Archimedes in him. Even today I remember this
The suggestion Box in the factory premises is a perfect illustration of this.”
Mr Arvind looks for a comparison of the three schools.
“Interesting analogy on rope/snake. All three known schools admit the existence or non-existence of the phenomenal world according as it is viewed from the relative or the absolute standpoint. After all, the aim of philosophy is to show a way out of the present state of bondage to a state of liberation. The system should be able to describe the present state of bondage in understandable terms and set forth the path to liberation too in equally comprehensible terms. The state of bondage has been likened to an illusory snake superimposed on a rope.
Can we also discuss the other two schools of thought if you or others have similar examples”
While Sankara in Advaita was not looking for a general solution or a single path or approach to life. Advaita is a pure jnana route. It talks about many aspects and qualities of a student, a teacher, and about learning, avidya and its removal,etc and his focus here was pure vedanta and its goals. He is concentrating on jivanmukti here. He has different prescriptions for different groups of people. To emphasize on bhakti, he introduced the shanmatha philosophy. He worshipped Narayana and govinda. He was for inclusiveness. His bhajagovindam, soundarya Lahari, kanakadhara stotram , Narayana smriti and many others speak about his devotion to saguna Brahman. He identified several temples in the country, also wrote prayers for many gods, built many temples and established puja vidhis. He encouraged vegetarianism. He is a reformer. His discussions with the kapalika shows that higher or lower castes are not relevant. When you look at the soul, it is the same for all. His second unifier. He also made Durga a shantaswaroopi , changed the idol of Kamakshi in the temple at Kanchipuram , installed Mookambika at an accessible place. So he realized the need for multiple paths of karma. Shankara wrote extensively and there are hundreds of books explaining his work and Advaita. He believed in prasthana trayi – vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavat Gita-. There are many saints like Ramakrishna paramhansa, vivekananda, Sadananda, vidyaranya, Appaiya Dikshitar, swami sivananda, swami Chinmayananda , Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo who discussed and wrote on shankara’s teachings. So I had access to these books.
Madhvacharya created a new definition for reality. A pure devotee and believer in God, both he and Ramanuja did not accept the thesis of Advaita of both Atman and Brahman being one and the same. So they said both are separate, a major departure from Shankara. They gave more emphasis to bhakti , devotion, total faith and saranagathi . Both considered that God is supreme and all powerful as well as guiding the universe . They believe that God is compassionate, controls the world and saves people . So the world is a reality to them. As I said, it depends on the definition of reality. Madhva also talked about jnana and methods to remove ignorance. Both have also like shankara wrote commentaries on Brahma Sutra of badhanarayana.
My access to their writings and knowledge of their work is limited. Ramanuja and Alwars developed a very detailed mechanism of bhakti in Nalayira divya prabhandam. Their work is called Tamil veda.
While we talk of these three Acharya’s we can’t ignore many others who contributed to saivism – from Kashmir to Assam to the Saiva Siddhanta of Tamilnadu and Lingayat and Veera Saiva philosophy of Karnataka. Tirumoolar and Basavanna are important names. Many more have developed these cults which took religion to all people and built an inclusive structure.
All these evolved many sampradayas.
I repeat my knowledge on all these different concepts and philosophies are sketchy .
Appreciate inputs from all on other sampradayas.
12/15/2021 Post 113
Mr B Sambamurthy looks at a totally new aspect.
His comments are:
” I have been following your thoughts on Scriptures. Very insightful.
I recently came across the subject of Philosophical Hermeneutics which deals with, INTERPRETATION ,particularly scriptures of any religion. You may like to eloborate on this philosophy , as it helps to INTERPRET your thoughts much more cogently. This is important , as we now live in a highly polarised world.
This philosophy has three main themes. 1. Throwness 2. Prejudice 3. Listening
Request you to discuss these themes so that members of the group benefit.”
My thanks to Mr Samba Murthy for raising this topic which is philosophical in nature. I will not go into these in depth but do my best to talk about the use and pitfalls of interpretation.
We are seeing the writings in veda samhita and Upanishads. They are written about four to five thousand years ago. There may be changes in language and words . Also these are written in a short cryptic form. So the major question is how do we know the meanings correctly and understand these writings correctly . Let us first look at general approaches ,follow it with the methods followed by our saints and acharyas to decipher them correctly and lastly look at biases in interpretation by many Indians and foreigners leading to great misunderstandings and wrong perceptions.
The first thing we need to know is the correct meaning of a statement . There are two approaches – explication or interpretation.
Definition of explicate
transitive verb. 1 : to give a detailed explanation of. 2 : to develop the implications of : analyze logically.
Explication. It Means the process of analyzing and developing an idea or principle in detail to make the situation and meaning clearer.
Example “this term is meaningless without further explication and analysis”
2.the process of analysing a literary work in order to reveal its meaning.
“careful reading and explication of classical texts”
Any difference in meaning between explication and Explanation?
Explanation is the general word for explaining anything that’s puzzling or unclear. Explication is used mainly in the context of unfolding the meaning of a literary text, as in literary criticism or textual interpretation.
Let me quote Dr Shyam Ranganathan, York University, on these methods.
“Explication is the gold standard of philosophical research and also the primary skill in philosophy as it allows us to determine the possibilities of philosophical debate, which we can converge on from all possible perspectives in the debate. Explication is hence theory neutral, and can thereby be used to study all philosophy.
Explication is an objective research methodology that transcends our mind—our perspective, reasons, opinions, and experiences—for it leads us to objects of philosophical inspection that we can converge on from differing perspectives. If we want our perspectives to be accurate about objectivity regardless of our orientation, we need them to be abstract and general.
The alternative to explication is subjective: interpretation. Interpretation is often confused with translation. The two concepts are often treated interchangeably—particularly in the hermeneutic (“interpretive”) tradition (Heidegger, for instance, was reputed to have held that every translation is itself an interpretation, )—but there are important differences between the two. Translations and interpretations are easy to confuse, for both function as proxies for original texts.
Interpretation is deeply troubled as a procedure for understanding. First, it is often presented as the default approach for understanding because knowledge requires truth, and interpretation is a criticism of method without any concern for truth.
it is imperialistic, and its efforts to accommodate secondary perspectives is colonialist. When we think about imperialism, we think about political arrangements where policy and the right opinion are determined by a center of power that has authority over other distal perspectives. ” He demolishes the use of interpretation. Still, interpretation has its uses and used in looking at vedas.
Interpretation is used in educational areas and ignored by scientists and engineers. It deserves detailed discussions and needs to look at many erroneous conclusions on Hinduism by most – colonialists, religious persons, foreigners ,Indian intellectuals and more . Bias and self interests – colonial, European – and ignorance have distorted our understanding of sanatana Dharma. A wrong picture has been built. Based on one statement , we generalise a religion ignoring millions of other statements. These are the pitfalls where many have fallen. It means interpretation is a very difficult and subjective approach. Many interpretations are erroneous and subjective. We will see them further in the next post.
12/17/2021 Post 114
Let us continue with our discussions on interpretation.
We can’t do research without interpreting results and getting correct conclusions. That last step is missed by many or carried out without seriousness by many researchers. This vital last link is missed by most of us worshipping only data and mathematical analysis. It goes beyond mathematics and statistics. It uses a sound and logical reasoning mechanism as explained in Uttara mimamsa and Advaita. I said it is a last link to interpret the results of an experiment. I am wrong. It is a much needed first step – data cleaning is an ignored area, . We need to start with the correct ingredients. Otherwise food prepared may become inedible and poisonous.
Why do we need analysis?
1.To remove ambiguities and provide clarity .
2. To Improve our understanding of a statement or a word.
3. To provide Deep understanding
4.To give a correct perception.
5. To create 360 views.
Interpretation doesn’t do all the above five aims. Explication does most of the above aims. But it is the most important and needed first step. If input is wrong , output is wrong. That is what happened with westerners interpreting hindu scriptures. Their ethnocentric nature dominated.
Ethnocentrism” is a commonly used word in circles where ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations, and similar inter-group issues are of concern. The usual definition of the term is “thinking one’s own group’s ways are superior to others” or “judging other groups as inferior to one’s own”. Most interpretations are biased. We will see them.
Interpretation needs a lot of effort and lots of thinking and research. Remember we work with limited or no data. This leads to biases, conjectures and wrong interpretations.
Examples of biases:
“Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, in his Convocation Address at the University of Calcutta in 1905, called Hindus compulsive liars, having no sense of truth . He was only an administrator, not a scholar, though as Viceroy, he should have known better. But quite a few Western scholars also, among them Max Weber (1930, 1958), Albert Schweitzer (1936) and W.J. Kapp (1963), though not as damaging and devastating as Curzon, did create a lot of misunderstanding about ethics in Hinduism and the Hindu world view”. More examples:
1.Hinduism is a caste centric religion – a generalisation based on one statement in Rig veda
2. Aryans came from Europe. This is refuted by many with evidence.
3. Sanskrit is derived from proto indo European family. This is because some common terms between sanskrit ,Greek and Persian. Based on a few common words this decision by westerners was made. Well it could have gone from Sanskrit to those languages.
4. Rig veda is around 500 BC not 1500 BC or earlier. No evidence for this assumption by them.
5. Hinduism is animal sacrifice oriented. Actually yajnavalkya has disputed and said sacrifices are symbolic and rewrote Yajur veda. The westerners close their eyes on it.
So you see ethocentricity plays it’s full role in biased interpretation of vedas and sanatana Dharma. Definitely many of these took a lot of interest in our scriptures and studied Sanskrit. They are scholars but could not see beyond their ethnic thinking. They looked at padartha and failed to look for a holistic picture. Interpretation is textual; explication is contextual. We create an overall framework with all vedas ,Upanishads , sutras ,smritis , Bhagavad Gita, and the explain dharma as done by our acharyas and scholars like Sayana, Sadananda, and many others. There has been continued studies and analysis of scriptures and sastras by thousands of scholars through several millenia. Hundreds of books exist. We call this kind of explication as bhashya.
Normally it follows with detailed analysis to know the truth and falsity in the statement, and better explanations – bhashyas- . Bhashyas are more than interpretation.
One classic example is the very detailed description, and rigourous and complete definition of Brahman in Upanishads. Explanation of guru is also detailed and clear. There is no equivalent of five koshas , prana, nadi and chakras as well as yoga. Apasthamba/ Gautama/ Baudanarayana/ Vasishta s Dharmasutras are very detailed with a lot of dos and don’ts for many activities. We will see them later.
Sanskrit was structured precisely by Panini. Scientific concepts like Sabdha bodha evolved to study and get correct explanations of sentences.
12/19/2021 Post 115
Interpretation is as old as vedas. Since vedas were cryptic and symbolic ,interpretation and explication started with Yajnavalkya who said animal and human sacrifices are symbolic. Only rice and ghee are offered to gods. Sanskrit was sharpened.
Patrick Olivelle has written a book on “THE ASRAMA SYSTEM The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution”.
He gives an interpretation on Asrama . It has two meanings . It refers to the four asramas – brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sanyasa. It also means asramam – living place of rishis. He derives it from srama – toil. The entire work is based on textual basis. We can easily identify the meanings based on context. So explication differentiates the two meanings based on context.
Olivelle is a great scholar and has published books on Dharma sutras and asramas. They are great works and I don’t see biases in his work .
Let us take an example of yajna . Most dictionaries define it as sacrifice ignoring other meanings of worship etc. Let us see this in detail.
A ritual of sacrifice to the Devas.
A ritual sacrifice with a specific objective.
But look at Wikipedia.
Yajna (Sanskrit: यज्ञ, romanized: yajña, lit. ’sacrifice, devotion, worship, offering’) refers in Hinduism to any ritual done in front of a sacred fire, often with mantras. Yajna has been a Vedic tradition, described in a layer of Vedic literature called Brahmanas, as well as Yajurveda.The tradition has evolved from offering oblations and libations into sacred fire to symbolic offerings in the presence of sacred fire (Agni).
The word yajna (Sanskrit: यज्ञ, romanized: yajña) has its root in the Sanskrit yaj meaning ‘to worship, adore, honour, revere’ and appears in the early Vedic literature, composed in 2nd millennium BCE.In Rigveda, Yajurveda (itself a derivative of this root) and others, it means “worship, devotion to anything, prayer and praise, an act of worship or devotion, a form of offering or oblation, and sacrifice.
It has, states Nigal, a threefold meaning of worship of the deities (devapujana), unity (sangatikarana) and charity (dána).
In Hinduism, yajña or yagam, is a ritual of offerings accompanied by chanting of Vedic mantras derived from the practice in Vedic times. Yajna is an ancient ritual of offering and sublimating the havana sámagri in the fire. The sublime meaning of the word yajna is derived from the Sanskrit verb yaj, which has a three-fold meaning of worship of deities, unity and charity. An essential element is the ritual fire – the divine Agni – into which oblations are poured, as everything that is offered into the fire is believed to reach God. The term yajna is linguistically cognate with Zoroastrian Yasna. Unlike Vedic Yajna, Zoroastrian Yasna has “to do with water rather than fire”. This led some to state sanskrit came from zorastrian. Rituals associated with temple worship in Hinduism are called agamic, while those involving communication with divinity through Agni are considered to be Vedic. Temple rites in modern-day Hinduism are a combination of both Vedic and agamic rituals. The ritualistic portion of the Hindu scriptures is one aspect of Karma-Kanda. Parts of Vedas which describe or discuss Yajnas fall into this portion.
Let us explain Agama, next.
Agamas are scriptures which explain the external methods of worship of god. The procedure for building temples, for the worship of deities, the worship we do at homes come from the Agamas.
We will see ” listening” later. Throwness another concept given in Mr Sambamurthy s comment deals with existence similar to western philosophies. It means one is thrown into the world. It differs from our philosophy .
We will look at the comments of Dr Mathur in the coming posts
Today is Arudra darsanam.
Arudhra signifies the golden red flame and Shiva performs the dance in the form of this red-flamed light.
It must be noted here that Arudhra, Ardra, Arudhara, Arudra, Arudara are the different spellings used in English language to mention the same festival. Ardra or Arudhara or Thiruvathirai is also the name of a birth star or nakshatra in Hindu astrology. The star is associated with Shiva.
Arudra Darshan is one of the most auspicious days associated with Lord Shiva. It is dedicated to the cosmic dance of Shiva.
The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva represents five activities – Creation, Protection, Destruction, Embodiment and Release. In essence, it represents the continuous cycle of creation and destruction. This cosmic dance takes place in every particle and is the source of all energy. Arudra Darshan celebrates this ecstatic dance of Lord Shiva.
Thiruuttarakosamangai and chidambaram are famous for this festival.
12/21/2021 Post 116
Dr R N Mathur has concerns on ethics.
“Ethics is an important area I wish you could touch upon. It is related to all subjects of study, how can we summatively say what all should be covered under this subject.
Your all contents point out to the fact that we belong to highly rich cultural and religious base, however, in our education system it is not reflected. Nor that we have institutions where ved and puran are tought – no degree, diploma or certificate. There is no course on moral education (accept some Christian schools). Morning prayers have been removed from schools.
In such a scenario what should be done and what all should be included in ethical education.
The concern is important. Even kanchi maha periyava has lamented on this. Let us look at it to some level of detail.
Let us start with negative statements about ethics.
Many felt our dharma was not concerned about ethics.
But quite a few Western scholars also, among them Max Weber (1930, 1958), Albert Schweitzer (1936) and W.J. Kapp (1963), though not as damaging and devastating as Curzon, did create a lot of misunderstanding about ethics in Hinduism and the Hindu world view”.
Dr Radhakrishnan commented on this and refuted this perception.
Another supporter – About the alleged neglect of ethics in Darshanas, Hindery observes:
… applied Hindu morality was already so capably administered by law codes (Dharmashastras), epics, and other popular classics and oral traditions that philosophical systems could simply bypass the ethical task entirely. … The Indian philosophers need not have feared either de-emphasis or downright detraction of moral law and order, because morals were already adequately secured in the Shastras, rituals, dramas and hearts of the people. (Hindery 1978).”
This is based on Western view of separate boxes. Their ethics developed later. I would say Indian ethics is older than Plato s work and western much later than Plato. Also dharma is not just a religion but more than that. It is a way of life built on right conduct and ethics. Ethics is integrated into dharma -right from rig veda to smritis , Yama , niyama , achara, conduct, dharma sastra , sutras, Ithihasas, etc. In addition many niti sastras have been developed. We know a few like chanakya niti, kamandika niti, Bhartrhari niti etc. Subhashitams are a collection of good values. Mahabharata has a lot of discussions on ethics – Vidura Niti, yudhishthira’s Q and A with yaksha, Bhishma’s advice to Pandavas while on deathbed , and Bhagavad Gita etc. Apasthamba Sutra is a detailed treatise on proper conduct by students, teachers and grahasthas. Emphasis on ethics is in every sastra and work. Hitopadesa gives a lot of advice on moral living. There is evidence of ethical living till 17 th century, definitely in south India. Life was simple. No concept of money or accumulation of money or greed in the majority of people.The external influences were low unlike in the north . So spirituality and morality thrived well. One of the great thinkers was Neelakanta Dikshita from pattamadai in south Tamil Nadu who was a minister to Thirumalai nayakar , ruling Madurai. He wrote on moral fibre required for the people. After the advent of British, we became slaves to their customs, got addicted to clerical jobs, destroyed gurukulas , avoided thinking and became money centric. Fortunately, we saw many persons talking about values in 20 th century.
Our dharma focussed on two important groups ,since they determine the overall welfare and harmony – scholars ( many identify this with Brahmins but all Brahmins were not scholars. I would go with the generic word as there were scholars in vedic times who were not Brahmins and vedas did not use the term brahmin for scholars.) and rulers – kings-. So a lot of dharmic rules and paths and disciplines have been defined in our scriptures for these two groups . Karma is defined for all. We have discussed karma in detail with many ethical concepts.
12/23/2021 Post 117
Nītiśāstra (नीतिशास्त्र, “ethics”) is a branch of philosophy that deals with moral values. In the knowledge tradition of India, ethics has its origin in its religious and philosophical thinking. In every religious tradition, good moral conduct is considered essential for a happy and contented life. Without following the path of righteousness , no one can attain supreme goal (mokṣa) of life. For this one has to perform good deeds and avoid wrong-doing.
“The closeness between religion and ethics is so intense and deep, that it is easy to mistake one for the other. Yet, it is useful to draw a distinction between the two. Though by and large, the genuinely religious may also be ethical, in quite a few cases they may fall apart.” M V Nadkarni in his book “Ethics in Hinduism”
Mahabharata also says : ‘One should not abandon dharma under the influence of sensual desire, fear or greed. Dharma is eternal, our pains and pleasures are only passing” – Vidura.
Let us ask what is dharma?
Dharma includes all aspects of proper individual and social behaviour and conduct as demanded by one’s role in society and in keeping with one’s social identity according to age, gender, caste, marital status, and order of life. So it varies with people. But basic principles of truth, peace, ahimsa, frugal living, piety, charity, liberality, helpfulness, respect to all, equality, concern for nature, harmless behaviours are common to all and not negotiable as they are in strutis. The term dharma may be translated as ‘law’ if we do not limit ourselves to its narrow modern definition as civil and criminal statutes but take it to include all the rules of behaviour, including moral and religious behaviour, that a community recognizes as binding on its members.
There are many Dharma sutras by Apasthamba, Baudhayana, Gautama, Vasishta, and others. They contain very detailed information.
The subject-matter of the Dharmasutras, therefore, includes education of the young , their conduct, dressing and food, and their rites of passage; ritual procedures and religious ceremonies; marriage and marital rights and obligations; dietary restrictions and food transactions; the right professions for, and the proper interaction between, different social groups; sins and their expiations; institutions for the pursuit of holiness; the king and the administration of justice; crimes and punishments; death and ancestral rites. In short, these unique documents give us a glimpse if not into how people actually lived their lives in ancient India, at least into how people, especially Brahmin males and rulers , were ideally expected to live their lives within an ordered and hierarchically arranged society. Conduct rules deal with ethics.
What is a Sutra?
the basic texts came to be composed in an aphoristic style known as sutra. A sutra is a concise sentence from which most non-essential elements have been removed.
Individual sutras are often syntactically connected to the preceding, words of earlier sutras being implicit in later ones, a convention technically called anuvritti. This convention makes the entire composition similar to a chain and each sutra a link in that chain. It is this characteristic that probably gave it the name sutra (lit., ‘thread’), the composition being compared to a thread on which each aphorism is strung like a pearl. Given the brevity of each sutra, it is frequently impossible to understand the meaning without the benefit of either an oral explanation or a commentary.
Since Hinduism says that right conduct leads to salvation, we need to know what is a right conduct. Our sastras say – follow the ethical principles and proper conduct given in strutis, smritis and Dharma sastras -the principles, yamas and niyamas are detailed in them to a maximum extent. Next follow the good practices- Achara- followed in your region. Elders told us stories of good behaviour regularly and imparted sadachara in us. Further, when in doubt,identify properly and follow a righteous person who has no desires or does not harm anyone or any creature and respects nature or has always followed good practices.
The last is defined in Taitriya upanishad, vivekachudamani and Dharma sutras. Gautama established these steps clearly.
Let us see examples from niti shatakam, Mahabharatam, Hitopadesa, vachanas, kural etc. in the next set of posts.
12/25/2021 Post 118
Since there are a large number of examples of aspects of ethics, I will give a few samples only. If you want we look at some in detail.
1.Bhartrihari is an eminent poet in Sanskrit who belonged to the first century before Christ. He is famous for composing three shatakas (sets of hundred—actually 108—verses) each on neeti (ethics), shringaara (romance), and vairaagya (renunciation).
A sample from Bhartrhari nitisatakam
Those are the noblest persons who, giving up self-interest, bring about the good of others. Those that undertake a business for the sake of others, not inconsistent with their own good, are the common lot. Those who harm the welfare of others for their own selfish interest, are demons in human form. We know not what to call those who harm others’ welfare for no purpose at all.
2.Mahabharata has a lot of discussions on ethics – Vidura talking to King Dritarashtra on ethics is a definite subject of study for our education in schools. It does not talk of religion.
First let us see who was vidura?
viduras birth is a good example of not harming insects . Let us see.
A sage by name Māṇḍavya, though innocent, was once impaled on a stake (aṇī) on suspicion of theft, whence he came to be known as Aṇīmāṇḍavya. In course of time, the sage summons Dharma and enquires what bad act he had performed to receive such retribution. Learning from Dharma that as a boy he stuck reed stalks in the tails of insects, Aṇīmāṇḍavya becomes indignant about being punished for some boyhood mischief and curses Dharma to be born in the yoni (womb) of a śūdra. However, this birth in a śūdrayoni does not deprive Dharma of his dharmic svabhāva; the narrative of the Aṇīmāṇḍavya legend immediately certifies that Dharma’s incarnation – Vidura is a dhārmī, i.e., a righteous person.
Vidura born to a person of lower status and caste was an expert in dharma and artha, devoid of greed and anger, far-sighted, tranquil, and devoted to the welfare of the Kurus. He is the most just person in Mahabharata. Vidura Niti is part of Mahabharata.
Importance of Dharma according to vidura
And I am telling you, dear, this meritorious and very special word, elevated above all: One should never abandon dharma out of desire, fear, greed, or even to save one’s life.
Don’t harm anyone.
One should not do to another that which is unfavorable to oneself; This is dharma in summary, everything else operates according to [one’s] desire.
What is the most important of purusharta?
Vidura answers as :
The course of the world depends on dharma, artha, and kāma. Which among them is the most important, which the second, and which the least?
Vidura emphasizes the importance of dharma, and secondarily artha, while ranking kāma as the least significant.
By dharma alone the sages have crossed [the cycle of rebirth], the worlds are established on dharma,
by dharma the gods went to the heaven, and artha depends on dharma. Dharma, O king, is foremost in point of merit, artha is said to be the middling, and the wise say that kāma is the least significant.
This is explained by the purity of three aspects – Trikaranaśuddhi . It indicates the purity and unity of (1) manasa (thought), (2) vāchā (word/speech), and (3) kārmana (deed/action), and a harmony and congruence between them. A spiritual saying of India speaks about the existence of this congruence in great people (“Mahatma”): “Manassekam, Vachassekam, Karmanyekam Mahaatmanam”.The idea of Trikaranasuddhi has some connection to the commonly expressed adage of ‘Talk your Thought, Walk your Talk’.
There is a lot more in vidura Niti.
12/27/2021 Post 119
3.Bhishma at his death bed gives quite a lot of advice to yudhisthira.
To give charity by the householder is one of the main functions and one should be prepared to give in charity at least fifty per cent of one’s hard earned money. A Brahmachari or the student shall perform sacrifices, a householder shall give in charity and a person in the retired life or in the renounced order of life should practise penances and austere life. That is the general functions of all the Ashramas or orders of life, on the path of self realisation. In the Brahmachari life, the training is sufficiently imparted to understand that the world as property do belong to the Supreme Lord the Personality of Godhead – Isavasyam Idam survam. Nobody, therefore, can claim to become the proprietor of anything that be in the world.
So far salvation is concerned one has to conquer over the principles of lust, anger, unlawful desires, avarice and bewilderment.
The best means of becoming free from anger one should learn how to forgive and one should not make plans in order to be free from unlawful desires.
By spiritual culture one is able to conquer over sleeping.
By tolerance only one can conquer over desires and avarice.
Disturbances from various diseases can be avoided by regulated diets.
By self control one can be free from future hope and money can be saved by avoiding undesirable association.
By practice of Yoga one can have control over hunger and affection of worldliness can be avoided by culturing the knowledge of non permanance.
Dizziness can be conquered by rising up and false arguments can be conquered by factual ascertainment.
Talkativeness can be avoided by gravity of silence and by prowess one can avoid fearfulness.
Perfect knowledge can be obtained by self cultivation. One must be freed from lust, avarice, anger, dreaming, etc. to move correctly on the path of salvation.
Here are some of his preaching which mighty Bhisma gave while lying on his deathbed:
1. All human beings should have nine qualifications, and these are:
i. To be simple.
ii. To be hygienic where the body is concerned and pure where the mind is concerned.
iii. Be true, to yourself and others too and never to lie.
iv. Be peaceful, never to let anger take over you.
v. Be forgiving.
vi. To beget children only by one’s legitimate wife.
vii. Not to be pernicious.
viii Always distributing wealth equally.
ix. Be supportive of servants and subordinates.
There are many more wise sayings by Bhishma. The above is a sample
4. Bhishma defined a Brahmana as
Brahmanas well-trained in several branches of knowledge, self-controlled, mild-speeched, conversant with the scriptures, well-behaved, possessed of the knowledge of Brahman and righteous in conduct, discourse in respectable assemblies like flights of swans. 2 Auspicious, agreeable, excellent, and well-pronounced are the words, O Yudhishthira, which they utter with a voice as deep as that of the clouds. Fraught with happiness both temporal and spiritual, such words are uttered by them in the courts of monarchs, themselves being received with honour and attention and served with reverence by those rulers of men.
There is a lot more advice from Bhishma to be found in Mahabharata.
5.Yudhishthira’s Q and A with the yaksha – dharma in disguise- controlling a pond , are very concise and instructive. Yudhishtra is Dharma’s son.
Let us see more from Vachanas and thirukkural in the next post.
2021 is receding and 2022 is coming. 2021 was also a difficult year. It has made us adaptive to changes and resilient inorder to survive the pandemic and come out of suffering . As Charles Darwin said that only those species that adapted to changes have survived not the mighty and powerful. So let the new bring us better changes to increase our and our families and universal happiness , our courage our togetherness and our concern for all.
Lokas samastha sukhino bhavanthu.( Let all in nature prosper.)
Yadum oore yavarum kelir ( the world is ours and all are our relations.)
Greetings for a great 2022.
12/29/2021 Post 120
There are many more aspects covered by Bhishma in his advice to yudhisthira. Let me give one – a definition of a proper person and another – on righteousness.
Yudhishthira said, ‘Why, O grandsire, are there five viz., he that is a stranger, he that is endued with learning (connected with the duties of his order), he that is connected by marriage, he that is endued with penances, and he that adheres to the performance of sacrifices, regarded as proper persons?’
“Bhishma said, ‘The first three, viz., strangers, relatives, and ascetics, when possessed of these attributes, viz., purity of birth, devotion to religious acts, learning, compassion, modesty, sincerity, and truthfulness, are regarded as proper persons. The other two, viz., men of learning and those devoted to sacrifices, when endued with five of these attributes, viz., purity of birth, compassion, modesty, sincerity, truthfulness, are also regarded as proper persons. Listen now to me, O son of Pritha, as I recite to thee the opinions of these four persons of mighty energy, viz., the goddess Earth, the Rishi Kasyapa, Agni (the deity of fire) and the ascetic Markandeya.’
Yudhishthira said, ‘The wise have said that duty of righteousness has many ends and numerous doors. Tell me, O grandsire, what however are the settled conclusions in this matter.’
Bhishma said, ‘Abstention from injury to others, truthfulness, the absence of wrath (forgiveness), compassion, self-restraint, and sincerity or candour, O monarch, are the indications of Righteousness. There are persons who wander over the earth, praising righteousness but without practising what they preach and engaged all the while in sin. O king, He who gives unto such persons gold or gems or steeds, has to sink in hell and to subsist there for ten years, eating the while the faeces of such persons as live upon the flesh of dead kine and buffalos, of men called Pukkasas, of others that live in the outskirts of cities and villages, and of men that publish, under the influence of wrath and folly, the acts and the omissions. ( A racial statement).
There are many more aspects explained by Bhishma and I am not listing them here.
Let us see a few vachanas and a few kurals. These depict ethics clearly. Why are we not aware of these and why don’t we follow them? Why we don’t teach them properly? Even in Tamilnadu , the kurals are not taught in a group to get good education on ethics. They are taught in a language course and not in a behaviour and conduct course. Same is true here in Karnataka on Vachanas.
Equality – god is in everything.
The vachana of Basavanna is given below.Chamakam also prays for many inanimate objects.
“The pot is a god. The winnowing fan is a god. The stone in the street is a god. The comb is a god. The bowstring is also a god. The bushel is a god and the spouted cup is a god. Gods, gods, there are so many there’s no place left for a foot. There is only one god. He is our Lord of the Meeting Rivers. “BASAVA – translation by AK Ramanujan.
“You are the forest, you are all the great trees in the forest, you are bird and beast playing in and out of all the trees ,0 lord white as jasmine filling and filled by all. Why don’t you show me your face? ” Akkamahadevi.
“Feed the poor, tell the truth, make water-places and build tanks for a town, you may then go to heaven after death, but you’ll get nowhere near the truth of our Lord And the man who knows our Lord. he gets no results.” Advice by ALLAMA
Do not steal, do not kill,
do not lie, do not rage,
do not loathe the other,
do not brag of yourself,
do not revile the opponent.
This itself is inner purity,
this itself is outer purity.
This alone is the way to win
A sample is given below.
1.Virtue enhances joy and gain; Forsaking it is fall and pain.
2.Perform good deeds as much as you can Always and everywhere, o man!
3.Four ills eschew and virtue reach, – Lust, anger, envy, evil-speech.
4.The ideal householder is he
Who aids the natural orders there.
5.Sin he shuns and food he shares . His home is bright and brighter fares.
6.Straight in virtue, right in living Make men brighter than monks praying.( Grhasthasrama is as good as sanyasa).
7.Men set up home, toil and earn To tend the guests and do good turn. ( Charity).
8.Calm face, sweet look, kind words from heart Such is the gracious virtue’s part.
9.Equity is supreme virtue
It is to give each man his due.
10.Humility is good for all
To the rich it adds a wealth special.
11.Revenge accords but one day’s joy Patience carries its praise for aye.
12.Fortune deserts the envious Leaving misfortune ominous.
13.”Who covets others’ honest wealth
That greed ruins his house forthwith.”
14.”All the wealth that toils give
Is meant to serve those who deserve.”
Translation by kavi Yogi swami suddhananda Bharathiar.
Let us look at Hitopadesa next.