Posted in India, Philosophy

Two philosophers of modern India–alternative narratives

 

India has a vast philosophical tradition that continued into the twenty-first  century, providing an alternative to formal religion. Among the twentieth-century philosophers who broke new ground,  were two Krishnamurtis, Jiddu Krishnamurti and U.G. Krishnamurti, both of whom had connections with the Theosophical Society. In their early years both were mentored by the controversial,  but brilliant Theosophist, Charles W. Leadbeater.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti  was born on 11th May 1895 at Madanapalle, a small town in present Andhra Pradesh. His mother died when he was young, and after retiring from government service, his father volunteered to work for the Theosophical Society and moved to its headquarters at Adyar, Chennai (Madras). At this time the Theosophists were searching for a ‘vehicle’ that is, a pure being, into which the Messiah would incarnate. Leadbeater noticed Krishnamurti,  around fourteen years old, who most considered somewhat vague and dull, standing on the beach. He saw a wonderful aura around him and identified  him as the coming Messiah, the World Teacher. Krishna and his younger brother Nitya were adopted by the Society, and  trained by Leadbeater and Annie Besant. Their father at first agreed to this, but later fought a case to get them back. However, he lost. Krishnamurti was declared the Messiah, replacing a boy who had been chosen earlier.

In 1911 the Order of the Star in the East was founded, with Krishnamurti at the head. In his private letters Krishnamurti indicated that he was not very happy with his role as Messiah, but gradually began to believe it. He led the Order of the Star for some time, and had some mystical experiences, but then grew disenchanted with Theosophy. The Theosophists believed in a mystical hierarchy of beings, at the head of which was the Mahachohan. These beings lived in the astral world, but Krishnamurti had been taught how to visit them, and believed in their reality. In 1929, Nitya, his younger brother was seriously ill. Krishna received this news when he was on a ship, and visited the Mahachohan in his astral body, who assured him that Nitya would recover. However, Nitya died a few days later. It was a turning point for Krishnamurti, who lost all faith in the mystical hierarchy.  Soon after this, on August 2, 1929, the opening day of the annual Order of the Star of the East meeting at Ommen, Holland, Krishnamurti dissolved the Order. Three thousand members of the Order were gathered them, but Krishnamurti told them he was no longer their guru. They would have to seek their own path.

On that day he said, ‘ I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.’

Krishnamurti continued to develop his own philosophy over the years, gave talks all over the world, and developed a large following.  Krishnamurti Foundations were set up in England, USA, and India  to disseminate his teachings, and schools were opened to try to bring about a new type of human being. Krishnamurti spoke about the ‘religious mind’ that comes into being in silence, and of ‘freedom from the known’ when conditioned thought has ended.

In 1980, he summed up his own teaching beginning with  the following words, ‘The core of Krishnamurti’s teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said: “Truth is a pathless land”. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.’

He ended by saying, ‘Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.’ Krishnamurti died on 17th February 1986, but the Foundations and schools still exist. The collected works of his talks and writings amount to hundreds of volumes. His non-sectarian philosophy  appeals mainly to the educated elite, and though the roots of his  philosophy have been traced to both  Vedanta and Buddhism, he had not read any traditional texts.

U.G Krishnamurti

Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti, popularly known as ‘UG’, was born on 9 July 1918 in the town of Masulipatnam in present Andhra Pradesh. His early years were spent in the nearby town of Gudivade. UG’s mother died when he was only seven days old, and he came under the care of his grandfather, T.G. Krishnamurti, who was a Theosophist, though he also retained his orthodox Brahmana culture. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, UG tried several spiritual techniques, and  engaged in self-enquiry, rejecting traditional beliefs. He joined the Theosophical Society, and In 1941 he even worked for some time in C.W. Leadbeater’s library at Adyar, but was disappointed that Leadbeater did not sufficiently recognise his  potential. UG  began lecturing for the Theosophical Society, and his talks were well received. Like J. Krishnamurti, he left the Society after a few years. Despite the similarities, he seemed in constant rivalry with J. Krishnamurti, whom he met frequently in early days. UG married in 1943, and had three children, though his marriage later broke up.  In 1967, he had a transformatory experience, in which he felt he died, and was reborn a different person.

UG did not give formal lectures or write books, but has a number of disciples, some of whom have recorded their conversations and dialogues. He said  that each person should be their own teacher, and that no guru is required. His biographer, Mahesh Bhatt says of him: ‘UG shuns religious persons, ridicules social reformers, condemns saints, speaks with disgust about sadhakas (spiritual aspirants), detests the chanting of the Vedas or the recitation of the Upanishads and is full of rage when one speaks of Shankara or the Buddha’.

U.G. died in March 2007.Though he did not acknowledge it, such rejection is similar to the Buddhist concept of negation. Through the rejection of all tradition, the mind drops its conditioning, and reaches a state of freedom.

In today’s India, these and other philosophers deserve to be better known. They differ from traditional gurus who often reformulate old statements, and instead provide fresh and different ways of looking at the world.

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Posted in Castalia, Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game

Castalia and intellectuals

The term ‘intellectual’  in today’s India seems to have negative connotations for many. I am not sure why, for aren’t intellectuals the vanguard of society? Aren’t they the best and highest that society can produce? Even in the old days, kings and rajas supported, financed, and patronized all intellectuals.

Anyway, this brought to mind my favourite book, and a post I had written in another blog, many years ago, in 2008. I reproduce the post below, in the hope that intellectuals continue to flourish in India and the world.

‘Castalia (or Kastalia) is the name of a Greek nymph, but it is also the name of a world of elite education, created by Hermann Hesse in his book Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game), which won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946.
The world of Castalia was not perfect. There was a hierarchical order, superiors who had to be obeyed, and a somewhat monastic lifestyle. Those who completed their education from the elite schools, became members of the order, many continuing within it as teachers. There were others who could carry on doing research, on any topic, with the freedom to study throughout their lives, supported by the state.
Among the select elite, were those who played the Glass Bead Game.
The Glass Bead Game and the ascetic world of Castalia still attracts me- particularly the world of the scholars, who read and studied whatever they liked!
I’m attracted too, to the Game, to its precision, symbolism and brilliance. I think the ideas in this book are relevant even today.’

Posted in Healthcare, India

The small tragedies of life in India

In a village in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, there is a woman who is ill, paralyzed and blind. My guess is that she is not very old, perhaps around 60, though she could be more, or less. Her eyesight had been failing for some time, and perhaps she had a stroke, the details are not clear, as I heard this story secondhand.  I thought of recording this sad story here, while searching for a possible solution.

After her paralysis, she was in hospital for a long time, then her family was asked to take her home. This they did, and as she lies in bed, unable to move or see, but able to eat, the family members have decided to feed her a small amount, only once a day. Why? They don’t know how to keep her clean. How to wash the sheets and clothes, so many times a day. Adult diapers must be out of the question because of the expense involved.

Is there no possible treatment? No place she can go? No home where she would be cared for? The family, at least, does not know of any. Nor have they received any advice on her care.

So there she lies…fed one small meal a day. Until she dies.

[The woman died on 1 May. I confirmed that she was just around 60 years old.]

Posted in Film, History, Poland, world history

The Jewish Cardinal–a French film

Le métis de Dieu (The Jewish Cardinal)[2013]

I saw this film yesterday on the French channel. It introduced me to Aaron Jean-Marie Lustager [17 September 1926 – 5 August 2007], born a Jew, who insisted on converting to Christianity at the age of 13,  and became a bishop, archbishop, and later cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. His mother died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, his father was never reconciled to his conversion, and Lustiger himself could not forget his Jewish origin.

This historical film also looks at aspects of the history of France,  Poland under the communist regime, the attitude of the pope, and the conflicts over the Auschwitz cross, and the occupation of a part of Auschwitz by nuns.

Here is the epitaph that he wrote for himself, enshrined in the crypt of the Notre-Dame cathedral.

‘I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron.
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.’

† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris

For someone like myself, interested in both history and religion, the film was fascinating. There is a lot on Lustiger available on the internet for those who would like to read more about him.

Posted in Books, History, India, stories

The Peshawar Express

Rereading a book of Partition stories, I began to wonder whether there were any happy stories? Every story is this volume seems depressing. And once again one begins to ask that unanswerable question, why did it take place? Could it have been avoided? One million deaths would have been averted. Ten million would not have lost their homes. And India and Pakistan would not be constantly in a state of hostility. The book, Stories about the Partition of India, ed by Alok Bhalla, is one I have had for many years. It includes Manto’s famous story, Toba Tek Singh, and many more.

The Peshawar Express by Krishan Chander [translated from Urdu by Jai Ratan] is perhaps one of the lesser known stories, yet it is extremely poignant, a typical story of one of the many refugee trains. Here it is the train, the Peshawar Express, which tells its story, as it sets out from Peshawar loaded with refugees bound for India. The Hindu passengers looked like Pathans, says the train, fair and hefty, speaking Pushto or rugged Punjabi. Each coach was guarded by Baluchi guards. The passengers ‘ were bidding goodbye to their homeland with heavy hearts…I felt so weighed down under their cataclysmic grief that it slowed my speed.’

The first station was Hasan Abdal, where a number of Sikhs got on the train. But by the next station, Taxila, the carnage started. Taxila, once a great centre of learning, with a wonderful museum, where the Buddha preached….

The tracks were covered in blood and ‘I feared I would derail…’. Corpses piled up along the way, till finally the express reached Amritsar. ‘When I arrived at Amritsar, the joyous cries of the Hindus and Sikhs  shook the earth. Corpses of the Muslims were  piled high.’ Killings continued as the train crossed through Punjab. Even a young girl college student, reading ‘Socialism, Theory and Practice’ was not spared.

Finally the train returns to its shed in Bombay… ‘I have been given a thorough wash….I would never go on such a horrible journey again. … I want to pass through a land studded with barns of golden wheat, and swaying mustard fields on both sides of the track. I want to hear the Hindu and Muslim peasants sing the love legends of Punjab, while they sow their fields, while their hearts brim with love for each other and they are even full of reverence for women. I am a lifeless train—But even I hate to carry a cargo of blood and flesh dripping with hatred. I will haul food grain to famine stricken areas. I will carry coal, oil and iron ore…I will carry groups of prosperous peasants and happy workers….Then there will be no Hindus and no Muslims. There will only be workers and human beings.’

Posted in History, India

Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi

I wrote this post on 29 December 2016 on another blog. Reposting here in the light of the election results in five states, particularly in UP.

Today, while working on a new book, I reread accounts of the 1971 elections, and began to see parallels between Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi. In that year, Indira coined the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’, or ‘remove poverty’. The combined opposition’s main programme was to get rid of Indira. They failed, and she returned with 352 seats in the Lok Sabha. Yes, a few years later there was JP’s movement, the emergency, and her temporary downfall, but there is something to be learnt from this.
Catchy slogans have a great impact. Negative campaigns often do not.
In retrospect her policies did not remove poverty. Was bank nationalization a good thing? It could be questioned. What about the other economic policies? Those need more analysis.
Is demonetization a good thing? I may be wrong, but as far as I can see, it hasn’t served its purpose, and has caused a lot of misery. Even bankers are beginning an agitation against it. But if opposition parties want to win elections, they need to focus on some positive programmes. Merely condemning demonetization will not work. Narendra Modi’s policies may or may not bring results, but he is putting forward hope for the future. The opposition must do the same.
That is the lesson one can draw from the past. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Yadav, and others should learn from history.

Posted in Religion, Upanishads

Unreality: The Tejo-bindu Upanishad

That the world and everything in it is unreal is a theme of the Upanishads. Here are a few extracts from the third chapter of the Tejo-bindu Upanishad

‘The form of the mind is false. The form of the intellect is false. I am eternal, perpetual and originless…the three bodies are false, the three gunas are false, all scriptures are false, the Vedas are false, all Shastras are false, I the Atman of consciousness am true. The triad of murtis are false, all beings are false, all truth is false. I am Sadashiva, pervading all existing things. The preceptor and pupil are false, the mantra of the preceptor is false.. Whatever is seen is false, what is conceivable is false… all living creatures are false, all enjoyments are false, right and wrong action is false, what is lost and obtained is false, grief and delight are false, good and bad conduct is false. All form, taste, smell, cognition is false, every result of human existence is false, I alone am the absolute Truth.

A passage follows on the mantra ‘I am Brahman’ which supersedes  all others and destroys all duality, all diseases of the mind and all bonds.  This mantra alone should be used.

 

Posted in world history

The fossils of Antarctica

 

One hundred million years ago, Antarctica was covered in thick forests, inhabited by dinosaurs.  It was a time of warmth, when the polar ice-caps had practically melted. Robert Scott in 1912, was the first to notice fossilised plants. Later Jane Francis of the University of Leeds, as well as others, discovered more. Francis found stunted beech bushes, which were only 3 to 5 million years ago. These plants and trees survived despite unusual polar conditions of night or darkness throughout the winter, and sun and light throughout the summer.

Polar dinosaurs may have lived there throughout the year.  A complete dinosaur skeleton was found of Leaellynasura, which  looked somewhat like a small kangaroo, lived on plants, and had enlarged optic lobes, indicating it could see in the dark.

Another dinosaur known from its fossils was a meat-eating creature, more than 2 metres tall, living in the James Ross region of Antarctica. It was probably a Titanosaur.

There is also evidence of tetrapods living in Antarctica 245 million years ago.

A meteorite from Mars is believed to have fossilised microbial life.

Recently, there are claims of tiny humanoid fossils being found, which existed 600 million years ago!

Given what we know about human evolution, this is a near impossibility, and I am yet to see something about this in a scientific journal.

But obviously, Antarctica has many mysteries that are still to be discovered.

Posted in Books, Literature

Reading plans for 2017

I have already read a number of books this year. But my future reading plans are to focus on literature from India. I’d love to read all the Jnanpith award winners, and am hoping to find translations of all, in either Hindi or English. I have read some of the authors, but not many. Next I will focus on the Sahitya Akademi winners–some are common to both.

The Jnanpith Award is given for the best creative literary writing by any
Indian citizen in any of the languages included in the VIII Schedule of the
Indian Constitution.

Here is the list:
Year : Name – Works (Language)
1965 : G. Sankara Kurup – Odakkuzhal [Flute] (Malayalam);

1966 : Tarashankar Bandopadhyaya – Ganadevta (Bengali)
1967 : Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa (Kuvempu) – Sri Ramayana Darshanam
(Kannada)
1967 : Umashankar Joshi – Nishitha (Gujarati)
1968 : Sumitranandan Pant – Chidambara (Hindi)
1969 : Firaq Gorakhpuri – Gul-e-Naghma (Urdu)
1970 : Viswanatha Satyanarayana – Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu [A resourceful
tree:Ramayana] (Telugu)
1971 : Bishnu Dey Smriti – Satta Bhavishyat (Bengali)
1972 : Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ – Urvashi (Hindi)
1973 : Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre – Nakutanti [Naku Thanthi (Four Strings)]
(Kannada)
1973 : Gopinath Mohanty – Paraja (Oriya)
1974 : Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar – Yayati (Marathi)
1975 : P. V. Akilan – Chitttrappavai (Tamil)
1976 : Ashapurna Devi – Pratham Pratisruti (Bengali)
1977 : K. Shivaram Karanth – Mookajjiya Kanasugalu [Mookajjis dreams] (Kannada)
1978 : Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan ‘Ajneya’ – Kitni Navon Men Kitni Bar
[How many times in many boats?] (Hindi)
1979 : Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya – Mrityunjay [Immortal] (Assamese)
1980 : S. K. Pottekkatt – Oru Desathinte Katha [Story of a land] (Malayalam)
1981 : Amrita Pritam – Kagaj te Canvas (Punjabi)
1982 : Mahadevi Varma – Yama (Hindi)
1983 : Maasti Venkatesh Ayengar – Chikkaveera Rajendra [Life and struggle of
Kodava King Chikkaveera Rajendra] (Kannada)
1984 : Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai – Kayar [Coir] (Malayalam)
1985 : Pannalal Patel – Maanavi Ni Bhavaai (Gujarati)
1986 : Sachidananda Rout Roy (Oriya)
1987 : Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar (Kusumagraj) – Natsamrat (Marathi)
1988 : Dr.C. Narayana Reddy – Vishwambhara (Telugu)
1989 : Qurratulain Hyder – Akhire Shab Ke Humsafar (Urdu)
1990 : V. K. Gokak (Vinayaka Krishna Gokak) – Bharatha Sindhu Rashmi (Kannada)
1991 : Subhas Mukhopadhyay – Padati (Bengali)
1992 : Naresh Mehta (Hindi)
1993 : Sitakant Mahapatra – “for outstanding contribution to the enrichment of
Indian literature, 1973-92” (Oriya)
1994 : U. R. Ananthamurthy – for his contributions to (Kannada) literature
(Kannada)
1995 : M. T. Vasudevan Nair – Randamoozham [Second Chance] (Malayalam)
1996 : Mahasweta Devi – Hajar Churashir Ma (Bengali)
1997 : Ali Sardar Jafri (Urdu)
1998 : Girish Karnad – “for his contributions to (Kannada) literature and for
contributions to (Kannada) theater (yayati)” (Kannada)
1999 : Nirmal Verma (Hindi)
1999 : Gurdial Singh (Punjabi)
2000 : Indira Goswami (Assamese)
2001 : Rajendra Keshavlal Shah (Gujarati)
2002 : D. Jayakanthan (Tamil)
2003 : Vinda Karandikar – Ashtadarshana (poetry) (Marathi)
2004 : Rahman Rahi – Subhuk Soda, Kalami Rahi and Siyah Rode Jaren Manz
(Kashmiri)
2005 : Kunwar Narayan (Hindi)
2006 : Ravindra Kelekar (Konkani)
2006 : Satya Vrat Shastri (Sanskrit)
2007 : O. N. V. Kurup (Malayalam)
2008 : Akhlaq Mohammed Khan ‘Shahryar’ (Urdu)
2009 : Amar Kant (Hindi)
2009 : Shrilal Shukla (Hindi)
2010 : Chandrashekhara Kambara – for his contributions to Kannada literature
(Kannada)
2011 : Pratibha Ray – Yajnaseni (Oriya)
2012 : Ravuri Bharadhwaja – Paakudurallu (Telugu)
2013 : Kedarnath Singh – Akaal Mein Saras (Hindi)

2014 : Bhalchandra Nemade – Hindu: Jagnyachi Samrudhha Adgal (Marathi)
2015 : Raghuveer Chaudhari – For his contributions to Gujarati literature
(Gujarati)

Posted in Uttarakhand

Black Spot: A film on dam tunnels–Uttarakhand News-3

Sharing a news item on a new film on the dangers of dam tunnels in Uttarakhand

Darkness is the only end of Dam Tunnels

“Black Spot” – A film made on the impacts of Vishugaad – Peepalkoti tunnels on Alaknanda River released
“We have been ignored and treated merely as  characters to laugh at. The tunnel is being built beneath our houses. How much damage  it will do, nobody knows. The compensation for previous damages have not been made yet. If we protest then we will have to face the court cases. The Court has made restrictions on people’s visiting the Dams working sites. Now what to do?”, says Ramlal, a residence of Durgapur Village. Durgapur village is the part of Village Panchayat where dalit families reside. The THDC, Dam Construction Company, is building/ constructing tunnels for Vishnugaad – Peepalkoti Hydro Power Project Power House. Cracks have appeared on the walls of houses present above the tunnels due to high intensity blasts happened during the construction of tunnels, the future has become uncertain.
The condition of the Harsari hamlet of Haat Village is also the same. The other project affected villages are also facing the same threat and uncertainties. What is the guarantee that everything will be secure once the projects will be completed? The tunnel of Vishnuprayag dam has already brought disaster in Chai –Thai Village after years where NEPI Company had denied claims of any losses.
There has been no evaluation done of the impacts of these tunnel in World Bank fostered projects. This is how  expenditure on rehabilitation and other issues is ignored. ‘We get the threats of arrest if we resist and protest for our rights. Are the Ganga dam affected region not in India?’, questioned Rajendra Hatwal.

Narendra Pokhariyal have been struggling since years for security of his Village and constant flow of the River Ganga but got only false promises and increased confusion. World Bank and State government is responsible for not giving the right solutions of the issues. The film “Black Spot” made by Media Collective tried to cover all these aspects. This Hindi film with subtitles in English is made by Hagen Desa.

This film reveals the reality of tunnel projects through the issues prevailing in Vishnugaad – Peepalkoti Dam affected area. When there is planning to bind Ganga – Yamuna – Kali – Saryu and all their tributaries in tunnels, then this film reveals the grim realities and likely impacts in front of development planners, government agencies and financial institutions like World bank, we expect that they will learn a lot from this and bring subsequent changes in their attitude taking people’s and environmental issues on higher priorities.
This film has been released by the villagers in Gopeshwar headquarter of Chamoli district.