order and chaosThis blog is an attempt to gather knowledge pertaining to Hindu traditions in light of the contemporary world governed predominantly by a Western discourse. This discourse emerged from an intellectual trajectory to which the Hindu traditions may have indirectly contributed but from which they remained relatively isolated. For better or for worse, that isolation has now permanently broken and the Hindus, who were operating within a discourse arising from their own traditions, have now entered the Western discourse where their traditions are officially accorded an ‘equal’ place along with other cultures, inasmuch as they are willing to adapt themselves to the values of the prevalent zeitgeist, but in practice their position becomes marginal for they do not really endorse those values at all.

The chief strategy that Hindu thinkers have followed in the last 200 years to reconcile the differences between their traditions and the Western discourse is a we-too approach i.e. to show how everything that is considered good by the good people in the West is already present in their traditions. The evil pointed out in the traditions is explained away in terms of universal problems existing in all ancient societies to be eschewed by modern Hindus as the modern peoples of other cultures have done. As a result Hindu thought is reduced to the position of a second fiddle to its Western counterpart, always playing catch-up with whatever passes off as acceptable norms in the global discourse. It can never play the role of a critique of that discourse because it is never allowed to speak its own mind. Hindus no longer study their texts to learn from them in order to challenge the global discourse but merely to affirm what they have already learned from the global discourse.

However, it is not an easy task to make the Hindu texts speak their mind because they were written in a language we no longer understand. By that I don’t mean Sanskrit which can, of course, be studied but the texts cannot be read in a way that they were written to be read. The Sanskrit language merely gives us access to them as raw data which we need to translate in a contemporary idiom in order to transform it into knowledge that can affect contemporary issues. But that idiom – words like religion, society, state, history, culture and so on – has developed in the course of that intellectual trajectory from which Hindus have remained by and large isolated.

Hence it becomes necessary to familiarise ourselves with both Western and Hindu texts. This is not to say that we are doomed to study Hindu texts using a Western framework. But even to liberate the former from the latter, we need to study the development of the latter, as well as to build using the former an alternative framework. Matters become even more interesting when we realise that the Western discourse is not monolithic. It is fraught with many internal contradictions and there is much within it that is already in alignment with ideas covered in the Hindu texts. Therefore it is not really a Hindu vs. the West issue at all but of discovering those knowledges that can equip us better to understand and express Hindu thought in its own terms.

The object of this blog is to help understand and spread ideas, related to the foregoing matter, as simply and elegantly as possible, avoiding unnecessary sophistication required by academic standards. Some posts are wholly my own original ideas (i.e. of course, in as much as ideas can be original) while others are simplifications from the works of other thinkers with reflections of my own. I do not wish to claim authorship for ideas that are not my own and would like to give credit where it is due. But I am not going to take the pains at pointing out at every juncture where the ideas of a specific thinker end and my reflection begins. Likewise, where a thinker expresses an idea cogently and powerfully, I just paraphrase or copy him. I hope his authorship becomes evident from the overall context. I aim to organically build on the ideas of other thinkers, both Hindu and Western, and write this blog as a medium for expressing their wonderful thoughts.

About the Feature Image

I don’t know its original source but traced it back up to here. Captions were added in a tweet by @wrathofgnon. The order in the upper image is a natural order which ‘flows naturally from the relationships men are inclined towards.’ The lower image is regimented chaos which gives a false sense of order:

Just because something is lined up nicely in a row or is heavily controlled does not mean it’s ordered… Chaos requires regimentation, order does not. In fact, order may look disorganised to the casual observer who doesn’t know better.

When we read ancient Hindu thought, it becomes evident that the upper image is what the conceived as their social ideal, while the lower image is what is being projected as the social ideal in modern India. The fact that the meme was produced by a Western thinker only goes to show that there are synergies to be exploited which have been woefully ignored.

The Subtitle

The blog subtitle in Sanskrit reads satyānṛtaṃ mithunīkṛtya lokavyavahāraḥ pravartate. It is a clause borrowed from Śaṅkara’s upodghāta (introduction) of his commentary on the Brahmasūtra. In case of the ultimate reality, satya (truth) alone prevails and not anṛtaṃ (falsity or disorder). But as far as phenomenal experience is concerned:

Having copulated truth and falsity, proceed the practical affairs of the world.